Letters to the Editor

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Picture of robbery suspect released, Moncton, NB

The Codiac Regional RCMP is releasing a picture and updated description of the suspect in a robbery at a credit union that occurred on June 18. (photo left)

Shortly after 2 p.m., a lone suspect entered the institution at 1192 Mountain Road in Moncton and demanded money from an employee. He left the location with an undisclosed amount of cash. No one was injured during the incident.

The suspect is a Caucasian man in his late 20s. He is approximately 5'9" tall and stocky. He was wearing blue jeans, a black jacket, a green baseball cap and running shoes.

Anyone with information on this robbery is asked to contact Codiac Regional RCMP at 506-857-2400. Information can also be provided anonymously through Crime Stoppers NB online at www.crimenb.ca or by phone at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

Public health effects of shale gas lectures

Monday, 18 June 2012

Bill allowing rural communities vote on shale gas died on floor of Legislature

Conservation Council expects government to table new bill next session 
FREDERICTON - Bill 62, an amendment to the Municipalities Act which would give unincorporated rural areas the same authority to vote on shale gas exploration as municipalities, passed second reading in the Legislative Assembly with the support of government.

The bill did not, however, go through and pass the final reading before the end of the day on June 13 which marked the end of the summer session of the Legislature. All bills not passed by the end of the session die.

Stephanie Merrill, spokesperson for shale gas at CCNB Action is encouraged by the fact that the government voted in favour of the bill.

“We are happy to see that the government is supportive of legislating equal opportunities to rural communities and municipalities in deciding on shale gas exploration” said Merrill.

Merrill said that the current governance structure in New Brunswick means unincorporated communities have no legal mechanisms that give them the authority to decide if shale gas development, and other mining and development projects, is something they feel fits with the vision of their community. 

“Since the bill passed second reading, we fully expect the government to bring its own version of the bill back to the Legislature during the Fall sitting”, said Merrill.

CCNB Action has been advocating that all communities be given this authority to define the type, pace, scale and place of shale gas exploration and development.

RCMP investigating fire that claimed 9500 chickens, Saint-Francois, NB

The RCMP in Grand Falls is investigating a fire at a poultry farm in Saint-Fran├žois, N.B. 

Police and firefighters responded to the fire in the early morning hours of June 17, 2012. A building that housed a chicken nursery, located on chemin Bouchard, was destroyed by fire. Approximately 9,500 chickens perished.

The cause of the fire is under investigation and at this time is unknown.

Anyone with information about this incident, or who may have seen suspicious activity in the area is asked to contact the District 10 RCMP. Information can also be provided anonymously to Crime Stoppers at www.crimenb.ca or 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

- There is some speculation this incident might be part of the ongoing dispute between Nadeau Poultry Farms and Groupe Westco. This publication did a story on the disagreement between the two companies earlier this year. - ED.

NDP leader Cardy says Robichaud's defence of Blaney appointment in tailspin

ROTHESAY – “The Conservatives are trying to spin their way out of a mess they created. I want the Conservatives to explain why Efficiency New Brunswick needed four Presidents and CEOs in the last year,” said New Brunswick New Democrat Leader Dominic Cardy.   

Cardy questioned Deputy Premier Paul Robichaud’s explanation for Premier David Alward’s decision to appoint former Conservative MLA for Rothesay Margaret-Ann Blaney to be CEO and President of Efficiency New Brunswick. Mr. Robichaud told the media that Ms. Blaney was hired to replace former CEO of Efficiency NB Elizabeth Weir, when in fact the position was filled in March by the deputy minister of environment Denis Caron, and has been previously held by other civil servants.
“My problem is not with Ms. Blaney – it is with the system that gives New Brunswick Premiers, Liberal and Conservatives, the power to play favourites with our public service,” said Cardy.

Since the Conservatives were elected Premier Alward has appointed his campaign co-chairs to head InvestNB and NB Liquor. The previous Liberal government also has a record of patronage. Former Premier Shawn Graham appointed one of his closest political advisors to be CEO of NB Liquor in 2006 and then, when he lost the election, made sure he was gifted with a secret pension.

Mr. Cardy is the New Democrat candidate in the riding of Rothesay, and has committed to ending patronage in New Brunswick.

“If elected I will bring the Rothesay Charter to End Patronage to the legislature,” said Cardy. “This Bill would make it an offense for an elected politician to try and influence the hiring process in any way.”

Cardy added, “Except for the individuals working directly for politicians, and ceremonial offices, all government appointments will be made based on merit and without the influence of elected officials.”

“For 150 years, the Conservatives and Liberals have traded power back and forth, making bad decisions that have undermined our economy and weakened our province,” said Cardy. “It is time for a change.”

Liberal candidate says Blaney appointment "black eye" for Rothesay riding

ROTHESAY – As Liberal candidate John Wilcox campaigns in the Rothesay by-election, he's finding there is confusion around the explanations the Tories have given regarding the appointment of the riding’s former MLA, Margaret-Ann Blaney, to CEO of Efficiency New Brunswick .

“This issue keeps coming up as I go door to door,” Wilcox said. “It’s become a source of embarrassment for the people of Rothesay, and the Tories keep making things worse by coming up with a new explanation every day. 

“The bottom line is it was the wrong thing to do and no one in government can stand up and admit it.”

The day Blaney resigned as Rothesay MLA she was made CEO of Efficiency NB by Premier Alward.  There was no competition posted for the job, which commands one of the highest salaries in the civil service.

During a budget debate in the legislature this spring, the minister responsible for Efficiency NB, Bruce Fitch, said his party saved taxpayers $200,000 a year by eliminating the position of CEO of Efficiency NB, noting the duties were to be handled by an existing deputy minister.

A few weeks later, Alward announced Blaney was appointed to the job that had been eliminated.  Last week, Deputy Premier Paul Robichaud claimed the position had not been eliminated, directly contradicting his fellow cabinet minister Fitch.

The Conservatives promised to eliminate patronage during the 2010 provincial election campaign.

”I don’t agree with it, and I have yet to meet anyone who agrees with it during this campaign,” Wilcox said.

Liberals concerned for seasonal workers in NB

FREDERICTON – Opposition Labour critic Chris Collins (photo left) is worried about the ramifications of Bill C-38, passed in parliament after a marathon session in Ottawa late last week.

Bill C-38 includes reforms to the Employment Insurance program that could have a devastating impact on New Brunswick’s seasonal industries.

The Opposition Liberals urged the Alward government throughout the legislative session to discuss the issue with the Prime Minister on issues that matter to New Brunswickers – including EI reform.

Collins, Moncton East MLA Chris Collins and critic for Post-Secondary Education, Training, and Labour is disappointed that Premier Alward refused to speak out against Harper during the EI debate. “Other premiers spoke out. But our premier has showed time and again he is reluctant to stand up to the Conservatives in Ottawa.”

Collins notes that it isn’t just traditional industries that will be affected by EI reform. Workers in the fisheries, agriculture, and forestry sectors are immediately thought of when reforms are discussed. Several other workers will be affected, however. “Think about teachers without full-time positions, TA’s, bus drivers, or any other staff in the school system. If they don’t have contracts, they don’t get paid in the summer. EI reform will hurt them too.”

Collins also notes how difficult EI reform will be on tourism in the province. “Yes, we have winter tourism, and have worked to grow that industry. But people mainly travel in spring, summer, and fall. It is difficult for workers living in tourist destinations to find alternate work in the downtime.”

Collins’ first concern is for seasonal workers. Like others, however, he knows these changes will negatively affect business owners as well. “First, the government will ask employees to drive an hour to find work in their down time. With the high price of gas, that has a cost,  and that’s if people have reliable transportation in the first place. Eventually they are going to move. We will be lucky if they stay in the province, but they are more likely to head West.”

With an out-migration of seasonal workers, businesses will struggle to survive. The Opposition Liberals worry that businesses in the province will close shop if the workers aren’t available.

Two shale gas meetings to be live-streamed

Two of the public meetings on a potential expanded natural gas industry will be live-streamed, Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup announced today.
Those meetings to be live-streamed will take place today, June 18, in Havelock and on Monday, June 25 in Blackville. Live-streaming will be available from 6:30 p.m to 8:30 p.m. at www.nbtvtoday.com/live.

Anyone wanting to send questions in advance of the event to be asked on the floor can email naturalgas@gnb.ca.

City of Fredericton "Gets Social"

By Mark Burnett

Fredericton - The Purple Violet Press
June 18, 2012

The City of Fredericton seems to be getting the hang of it. 

Fredericton Fire Dept. on Twitter
It’s an important time for the City to start connecting with its residents in a more reachable way.  Many residents of the city use social media on a daily basis.  In fact, over 17 million people in Canada are actively on social media, according to an Ipsos poll taken in 2011.  Now City services, as well as City staff, are using this method of communication to stay in touch and share information.

Mayor of Fredericton, Brad Woodside, took some time Thursday morning to discuss how social media improves his accessibility.

“If you look at the tweets last night (Wednesday), somebody sent me a tweet 'What is the height of fences around pools?'".  So, I told [him] it was 1.5 metres.  What I find is that it's giving people relatively instant communication with an elected person and I think people like that.  I don't have the answers to all the questions obviously, but if I don't, I forward it on through email to staff to get the information.”

Woodside continued to say, “I like it in that respect.  You don't have to wait until 8:30 in the morning the next day to find out that I'm at a meeting and I can't call you back.  Social media is convenient, in so far as, you can do it at anytime, anywhere, any place.”

Open communication was a hot issue that was discussed during the May election.  While many said they’d improve communication, Woodside described how it wasn’t an election thing for him.

“ If I'm going to have a communication link with the public, it's really important that I'm on it.  They get used to the fact that if you've got a question, you tweet it to Woodside, he's going to answer you back.  I can get back to people very quickly - that's not the part that takes time.  I also like to see who's following me and who I'm not following back.  So, there's a lot of maintenance.  I do that once in a while [and] usually do it on the weekend.”

At the time this story was written, Woodside had 10,805 followers on Twitter.  He is following 10,732 of them.

“I think the city is getting into it.  Now we have departments and we have the organization through our communications people tweeting information.  As far as a social media plan, I haven't got one and I think that's probably something that will happen sooner than later now that we have a new council.”  

When asked if the city had a plan to get the police department on social media, Woodside went on record, stating, “That's going to be part of our corporate thing that we're doing when we're first meeting as a council on [June] 23rd.  Communication is going to be something that we'll be talking about.  That in all probability will be something that will be discussed in terms of all departments and how we're linked and how everybody is getting their message out, which could very well turn into a policy.”

Stacey Russell, Manager of Social Media and Travel Media Relations with Fredericton Tourism shared her thoughts on the City’s “Town Square Social Hub”. 

“We’re happy with how well they are coming along. The goal for our Town Square Social Hub is to develop a pool of conversations within local residents – something that for when visitors are planning their trip (or are already arrived in) Fredericton they’re able to jump in and ask questions.”

“This has proven to be very beneficial for Fredericton Tourism as part of our overall strategy moving forward.”

The one City service most noticeably present on social media has been the Fredericton Fire Department (FFD).  From accident reporting to issuing recall notices, they seemingly have everything covered.  Cameron Dunn, an Inspector with the Fredericton Fire Department and the man behind the tweets, shared his thoughts on where the FFD is excelling.

“Specifically we use our feeds to engage people’s interest in fire safety, recalls and also let them know when we are at an incident that will result in street closures, etc.  From the feedback @cityfredfire receives, we can see we are getting the fire safety message out to followers and Facebook friends.” 

Dunn continued, stating, “It has allowed us to react quickly to evolving situations at calls and inform the public of issues that might affect them immediately.  We have also found it is a great forum for answers to questions a lot of the public have about the FFD.  Issuing recalls, we see the trail that these take through “likes” and “retweets” to a large portion of our population.  Just getting people talking about recalls make for greater public safety.”

Do you think that the City of Fredericton and city services are on track to lead the country when it comes to use of social media?  Where do you think they could improve?  Have your say in the comments below or tweet me @burnettisms.

Connect with the City of Fredericton on Twitter and Facebook:

Mark Burnett was born and raised in Fredericton, New Brunswick and currently resides there with his wife and daughter.  He works in the social media industry and practices photography in his spare time.  If you have an idea of something that you’d like to have featured here, please contact Mark to make it happen.  He can be reached by emailing mark@burnettphotos.ca. 

Barbara Harris to lecture in Fredericton and Taymouth on pubic health effects of shale gas

Imagine having your health destroyed without knowing what did it.

One day you're going about your routine, going to work, looking after the kids, and the next you're down in bed because you're so exhausted you feel you can't take another step. You have the shades pulled because that migraine in your head throbs worse with light in the room. A rash has developed on your chest, but you're so dizzy and uncoordinated you're afraid to get up to get something to put on it. Your spouse is now waiting on you hand and foot doing simple things you could do for yourself only a short time ago. You've got to take time off work, or worse still, you lose your job. As the days wear on you begin to get depressed. Nothing you do to treat the symptoms helps. You're not getting better. Doctors can't figure out what's wrong with you. The house is a mess. The laundry is piled up. The kids don't understand why you're not you're usual self. 

No one knows you've just been ambushed by the effects of chemical exposure. It's in the air all around you, coming from something somewhere. But because it's invisible, has no scent and is in just about everything in our daily lives, you have no idea it's what's causing your illness. And it could last for years, if not a lifetime, if you don't figure out that it's chemical exposure you're dealing with. Even if you do figure it out and get better, there is no guarantee your health will ever be completely normal again, and little recourse to compensate you for what you've lost.

Barb Harris knows full well what it's like to have her health destroyed. About twenty years ago she got very sick from unknown chemical exposure. Although she figured out what made her sick and started avoiding it, she doesn't have her health back completely. So she began to study the impacts of everyday chemical exposures on human health. For over a decade now, Harris has focused on research and writing about the public health effects of environmental toxins. 

Her work led her to become a core member of the Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia in 2000. EHANS is a community-based non-profit that educates the public on ways to identify and avoid environmental toxins, while helping them find healthy alternatives. EHANS also works with other groups to stave off public health threats so people aren't exposed. 

When the shale gas fracking issue came to her neighborhood last year in River John after the north shore of Nova Scotia was leased for onshore oil and gas exploration, she went into overdrive to educate herself on the environmental effects of the industry on human health. The area was leased by the government shortly before it decided to review the industry and place further development on hold for the next two years.

The province is expected to use the review process to formulate regulations on the shale gas industry in Nova Scotia. But the public is frustrated it's being influenced by industry, and that the scope of the process is too narrow; only taking into consideration the technical aspects, not health or air effects.

Not waiting around, Harris co-authored a submission from EHANS to the province's review board to make it aware of the devastating effects chemical exposure from the industry can have on human health. 

She also got involved with NOFRAC, a Nova Scotia anti-shale gas coalition, and began making public presentations on the health impacts of shale gas and fracking in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. 

Tomorrow night at 7 pm in MacLaggan Hall's room 53 on the UNB campus and Wednesday night at 7 pm in the Taymouth Community Centre, Harris will talk about her research into the impacts of airborne chemicals from shale gas fracking on human health. Since not a lot of studies have been done in Canada, her information is mainly from the United States. In the two free lectures, Harris will talk about the ways people are exposed through air pollution and the levels of exposure in some places. This publication had a chance to talk to Harris late last week and discuss the issue with her.

"In Nova Scotia, it began with the hype that shale gas would be a clean transition energy with great economic benefits. But counter analyses began to show the risks outweigh the benefits," said Harris.

Although the government answered public concern with it's review, Harris found there is a lack of focus on the health impacts of the shale gas industry. Something that often happens in industry studies.

"It's a huge piece of the puzzle that's usually left out," she said. 

Harris said she's uneasy about what could could happen if people are exposed to chemical toxins in the air due to fracking. It's not wise to do the studies after the damage is done.

She also questions the concept of "best practices" regarding regulation of the industry. She wonders if they're good enough; if they balance with health concerns.

"The industry isn't contained in a building with a controlled environment. It's in open areas near homes, schools, agriculture and forests," she said. "That has to be take into consideration [when formulating regulations]."

As was discussed in the recent forum on shale gas in Moncton, Tom Murphy of Penn State's Marcellus Center said technologies are evolving in the industry at a rapid rate, making it hard to know what the long term environmental impacts will be. Harris agreed.

"We need to know the impacts of industry. It's [slickwater hydraulic fracturing] not like any other industry. They're doing things that have never been done before," she said.

Those who raise concerns about the shale gas industry are often labelled as "fearmongers" by government, industry and business in favor of it. But Harris said knowing what's contained in the chemical recipes used during the fracking of a shale gas well is only common sense, not fear.

"Fear is not helpful. I try not to work from a place of fear. We need to know the long term harm when new contaminates are created and used in huge quantities," she said.

Harris added, "If it's so safe, why is it so secretive? [Financial] settlements with fracking companies are sealed. If there is nothing to worry about, why can't we have all the information?"

She referenced the book, Merchants of Doubt, to explain her feelings on being labelled a fearmonger. She said the book explains how industry has perfected dealing with opposition to "manufacture doubt" in scientific fact.

"They change the discussion to people being emotional when that's not the issue. It's looking at the information," Harris said. 

Although she is a lay person who's educated herself on the topic, Harris said with so much information and conflicting opinion out there, along with the new industry technologies, it only makes sense to put things on pause.

"There's a lot we don't know so maybe we should slow down. Medical communities are saying slow down. So a long term moratorium from a health point of view makes sense," she said. 

Even with everything she knows about the dangers of the shale gas industry to human health, Harris remains hopeful it will be delayed in the Maritimes.

"It's not a done deal anywhere. In the places where it was banned, or a moratorium was put in place, it was always due to an informed opposition. Many things can tip the balance. I have hope."

Barbara Harris has published several articles on the health impacts of shale gas in the national cancer prevention publication, The Ounce. She is co-author if the Guide to Less Toxic Products and runs a website with the same name, www.lesstoxicguide.ca. As the EHANS representative on the Pesticide Free Nova Scotia Coalition, she helped gain a provincial ban on cosmetic pesticides used for lawn landscaping in 2011. She lives in River John, Nova Scotia.

Friday, 15 June 2012

St. Mary's First Nation Pow-Wow starts Friday

WHEN: Starts 8 pm Friday June 15 and runs to Sunday, June 17 until 6 pm

WHERE: Old Reserve on Union St. in Fredericton, (beside the Tim Horton's coffee shop)

WHY: To celebrate Native traditions and culture. All are welcomed.

WHAT: Drumming, dancing (bring your drum, there's a competition)

St. Mary's First Nation is one of six Wolastoqiyik or Maliseet Nations on the Saint John River in Canada. The St. Mary's Band lands comprise two reserves. The Saint Mary's reserve, established in 1867, lies on the northeast bank of the Saint John River, opposite downtown Fredericton. A second, larger reserve, purchased in 1929, lies 3 km north of the St. Mary's reservation.  Roughly half the members of the St. Mary's First Nation reside on the reserve lands. The founding of the 1867 Reserve is attributed to Gabriel Acquin, a respected Maliseet hunter, guide and interpreter.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Bill C-38 protests continue at Minister for Fisheries and Oceans office in Fredericton

Minister was unavailable to meet group

Photo by Amelia Secord
FREDERICTON - Representatives from different organizations including conservation, fisheries and labour brought their concerns with Budget Bill C-38 to the office door of Fisheries and Oceans Minister and Fredericton MP Keith Ashfield today. The impacts of Bill C-38 to fish, marine ecosystems, fisheries, workers and public safety were highlighted.

"Bill C-38 tears apart Canada's system of environmental protection, which was built up over decades by both former Conservative and Liberal governments. In my opinion this contravenes Article 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement where Canada, the US and Mexico explicitly agreed not to relax environmental regulations as a means to attract investment," said David Coon, Executive Director of CCNB Action.

Matthew Abbott, Fundy Baykeeper, pointed out that, “It is absurd to suggest that we can protect fish without protecting their habitat. The changes proposed in the budget bill demonstrate a lack of understanding of basic ecological principles.” Also, in light of the ongoing cuts to environmental science, including those assessing the impacts of pesticides and contaminants, Abbott further noted that, "At the same time that our government is eliminating and weakening key environmental protections they are removing the very scientists best equipped to assess the impacts of these changes. Choosing not to look will not make the impact of these changes any less real.”

Sheena Young, Fundy North Fishermen's Association, spoke on Bill C-38's impact to the lobster fisheries of Fundy North. Janice Harvey, Green Party Fisheries Critic, spoke on how Bill C-38 proposes to gut marine ecosystem monitoring and science when there is a five-fold decrease in phytoplankton in the Gulf of Maine. Dave Shaw, Public Service Alliance of Canada, spoke on how Bill Bill C-38 is laying off government workers and threatening public services and public safety.

"This approach by the Conservative government is wrong-headed and citizens are standing up against it," said NDP Fisheries and Oceans Critic, Robert Chisholm (Dartmouth-Cole Harbour). "They are making sweeping and inappropriate changes to environmental protection, including to the Fisheries Act in the budget document, essentially stifling debate on the subject. The Conservatives are showing their contempt for Atlantic Canada and our coastal communities."

Photo by Amelia Secord
Today's action is the third show of opposition against Bill C-38 at Ashfield's office in the month of June. On Saturday, June 2nd, concerned citizens protested against Bill C-38 and on World Oceans Day, June 8th, ForestEthics Advocacy plastered fish decorated with impassioned pleas on Ashfield's office. The pleas, from people across the country, called on Ashfield to protect fish habitat and coastal and marine ecosystems.

Pro-Publica: When regulations go wrong

With the recent unveiling of the province's 116 recommendations for the shale gas industry in New Brunswick, the article below from ProPublica is timely. 

It provides a cautionary tale of what can go wrong with regulations if there isn't enough oversight in place. It's informative for all sides in the shale gas debate here in New Brunswick.


Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Industry responds to Mulcair's remarks on shale gas in New Brunswick

Governments regulate shale gas, industry promotes operating practices


The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers responded today to recent comments about natural gas hydraulic fracturing attributed to federal opposition leader Thomas Mulcair. 

"In late January, CAPP announced new Canada-wide hydraulic fracturing operating practices designed to improve water management and water and fluids reporting for shale gas and tight gas development across Canada," said CAPP President Dave Collyer. "CAPP members developed the hydraulic fracturing practices voluntarily and are expected to adhere." 

The natural gas industry is regulated primarily by jurisdictions that own the resources - provincial governments in the case of hydraulic fracturing - and to some extent also by the federal government on navigable water, air, wildlife and greenhouse gas emissions. 

The industry's hydraulic fracturing operating practices were developed to inform and complement regulations, not as a substitute for regulatory oversight.Continuous environmental performance improvement is a goal of the natural gas industry and is the expectation of most Canadians. 

Disclosure of fluids used in hydraulic fracturing has been made mandatory by regulators in British Columbia. In Alberta, companies are required to disclose fluids to the provincial regulator and public disclosure is expected to be mandatory later this year. The New Brunswick government recently announced plans to require disclosure of hydraulic fracturing fluids. It is within the remit of other provincial governments to enact similar regulation as they see fit.

Work on regulation is typically informed by credible third parties such as trade associations and organizations such as the International Energy Agency, which recently positively cited the Canadian industry's operating practices, indicating the CAPP work covers many of the issues the IEA addresses in its "Golden Rules." 

"Shale gas can and is produced responsibly every day across Canada and the United States with more than 175,000 wells fractured safely in Western Canada over the last 60 years. Our operating practices demonstrate the Canadian natural gas industry's continued efforts to ensure responsible resource development," Collyer said. 

The industry's hydraulic fracturing principles and practices are available here:

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) represents companies, large and small, that explore for, develop and produce natural gas and crude oil throughout Canada. CAPP's member companies produce more than 90 per cent of Canada's natural gas and crude oil. CAPP's associate members provide a wide range of services that support the upstream crude oil and natural gas industry. Together CAPP's members and associate members are an important part of a national industry with revenues of about $100 billion-a-year.

Stop Bill C-38 gathering and media conference in Fredericton

Where: Office of Fisheries and Oceans Minister/Fredericton MP Keith Ashfield's office, 23 Alison Blvd, Fredericton

When: Thursday, June 14, 11 am

Why: To highlight the impacts of Bill C-38, sweeping changes to environmental protection, healthcare, labour standards, sovereignty, and  arts and culture  

Speakers include

David Coon, CCNB, on how Bill C-38 proposes to roll back decades of progress on laws protecting our environment.

Sheena Young, Fundy North Fishermen's Association, on how Bill C-38 could impact the lobster fisheries of Fundy North.

Janice Harvey, Green Party Fisheries Critic, on how Bill C-38 proposes to gut marine ecosystem monitoring and science when there is a five-fold decrease in phytoplankton in the Gulf of Maine.

Dave Shaw, Public Service Alliance of Canada, on how Bill Bill C-38 is laying off government workers and threatening public services and public safety.

Matt Abbott, Fundy Baykeeper, on who serves to benefit from Bill C-38 and the likely fallout of deregulation in light of ongoing expansion of aquaculture and other industries in our sensitive marine waters.

Quebec Student Solidarity/Casserole Night in Fredericton

Where: Intersection of King and Carleton Streets, downtown Fredericton

When: Wednesday, June 13th from 5:00 to 5:30 pm

Why: To protest against NB's high tuition costs & solidarity with the Quebec student movement

What: Bring a metal pot and a wooden spoon or wear a red square in support of the student movement*

How:  Bus, bike, car pool, walk, thumb a ride - just get there!

Join NB students in making noise and handing out leaflets and red squares at an informative casseroles demonstration in solidarity with Quebec Students.

Facebook event page: http://www.facebook.com/events/143165285807370/

*The red square is the symbol of the Quebec student movement. It is a visual pun from the popular saying “being squarely in the red”. It symbolizes the ever increasing cost of education and debt load faced by students; student’s futures are “squarely in the red”.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Pennsylvania Farmers Support Drilling Moratorium

By Sue Heavenrich

Yesterday the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) published a strong statement in favor of a state-wide moratorium on unconventional gas drilling. Such drilling, they say, affects local farmers, their farms, the food they produce and the people who eat it.

PASA urged PA Governor Tom Corbett and the state legislature to enact a moratorium on shale gas drilling “until it is determined that this practice will not impair the ability of farms to profitably produce healthy food while respecting Pennsylvania’s air quality, water resources and the natural environment.”

PASA calls for studies to assess the impacts of drilling on the integrity, health and long-term sustainability of the food supply. PASA supports baseline testing of water and soil, as well as animal welfare, prior to and after extraction. They also suggest that drilling companies post a bond that would be held in escrow to cover environmental clean-up costs.

Durham Bridge says no to shale gas at government meeting

DURHAM BRIDGE - About 100 people showed up last night at the Nashwaak Valley school in Durham Bridge to voice their opposition to the shale gas industry at a government panel. The area was the latest stop on the province's public consultation tour for feedback on its new shale gas recommendations to regulate the industry here.

Chaired by distinguished University of Moncton biology professor, Louis LaPierre (photo left, navy blazer), the panel consisted of himself and three other members from the Natural Gas Group, the government body overseeing regulation of the industry in New Brunswick. Moderated by the group's communications officer, Marc Belliveau, questions were answered by, left to right, David White, Annie Daigle and Craig Parks.

But Durham Bridge wasn't having any of it. From the moment Craig Parks finished his presentation on the government's regulatory framework and the mic opened up to the floor, it was obvious the panel was up against a tough room.

"There's no issue here. Shale gas isn't going to happen in New Brunswick. It's a done deal," said Maggie Connell flatly. Connell is a resident of the area and strongly against the shale gas industry setting up shop in the province.

Member of the NDP party and local resident Sharon Levesque said, "If Mr. Alward thinks that this is such a great thing for New Brunswick, then call an election and let people speak." 

In the video below, resident Milda Titford bluntly spoke for many in the room who are vehemently opposed to shale gas in the community:

Former Conservative MLA for Western-Charlotte, Tony Huntjens (photo, below left) spoke at the meeting, saying he was "flabbergasted" when he heard the government was bringing shale gas fracking to New Brunswick. 

"This is a dangerous experiment you're going with. We are told, for example, 40% of the chemicals that are pumped [into the ground] will not go back to the surface. How long does it take for those chemicals to come to the surface through another route?...Those chemicals will come to the surface and be detrimental to the health of our citizens," he said.

Current York North Conservative MLA Kirk MacDonald (photo, right), who represents Durham Bridge in the Legislature, was in attendance but opted not to comment, preferring to listen instead.

Resident Heather Whelan, a retired addictions counsellor,  raised the issue of the economic downsides of the possible prosperity from the shale gas industry. With an increase in money, she said, will come trouble with addictions in the population. She wanted to know if government has considered this.

Moderator Marc Belliveau responded to Whelan's query stating, "You're absolutely right, any community that gets a sudden influx of workers is going to have those kinds of problems...part of the framework that we've developed includes a community resources plan. That is being worked on as part of the whole framework."

It was a very well-informed crowd. Many came to the mic waving peer-reviewed scientific reports from reputable think-tanks while making their points against shale gas to the panel.

One unidentified gentleman who got up to speak handed the panel copies of a 200-page report from Germany entitled, "2050 - A hundred per cent." It's Germany's plan for one hundred per cent renewable energy supplies by 2050.

He presented it to the panel as another approach to providing energy supplies for public consumption that will be sustainable for use by future generations.

But having to do his own research upset the gentleman who told the panel, "I should not have to spend my free time doing this. The government should be doing it, and I should be able to get the whole picture...we need the whole picture to make informed decisions."

Others at the mic backed up their arguments with safety reports, economic evidence examining the royalty plan, and air quality data. 

The panel was amenable to receiving the information, and took copious notes from those at the mic offering practical suggestions for them to look into on the issue.

But it wasn't just a night for practicalities. First Nations brought an emotional element to the discussion, exposing the public's sensitivities on the issue in a tension-filled room. Native Madeleine Huntjens pleaded for the Earth's water to the panel, as seen in the video below:

First Nations also brought up the matter of treaty recognition by the government in the shale gas matter. "I want to know, where is the legal obligation for consultation with First Nations?" asked Native Judie Aquin-Miksovsky.

She continued, "SWN says that the government's responsible. The government says that SWN is responsible. I want to know. There have been different meetings with Native associations and whatnot...but it's about trust...not every Chief, just like some MLA's that sit in our Legislature, can be trusted...They don't take into consideration what people in their communities want. The majority of First Nations communities don't want shale gas...there is a legal obligation you have to follow. Those treaties weren't just signed by Native people, they were signed by your ancestors. Are you going to ruin that? Are you not going to take responsibility in that?"

A topic that continued to be raised last night was the situation in Penobsquis. Many in the room worry that what's happening there with the loss of well water and land subsidence, likely due to both potash mining and shale gas industry in the area, will happen to them should shale gas fracking go ahead in their region. Residents don't believe government is equipped to protect them from industry should anything go wrong.

"We have regulations and recommendations and I believe your sincerity...but I'm pretty sure the mine in Penobsquis...was examined by a panel of experts, just like you...putting requirements in place to make sure it was done safely. It would seem logical to have in place all of the regulations before they [industry] got here, and to have the staff trained, and ready to enforce regulations. Then the people here who are so angry and frightened might be less so," said Paul McLaughlin from Marysville and President of the National Watershed Association.

In the video below, panelist Annie Daigle answers a question from First Nations member Judie Acquin-Miksovsky on government responsibility to citizens in the Penobsquis area:

Upper Miramichi resident Rick de Gruyl asked, if in the event of an accident where a homeowner's well water is contaminated, making the home and property worthless like those in Penobsquis, will the government pay a fair market price for the homes.

The panel's David White responded, "In terms of a plan to purchase property if that comes up, that hasn't been discussed. I mean, it's an option, certainly. But it's not in our discussion document [recommendations]. There are financial safeguards in the discussion document in terms of financial safeguards, for instance, there is a property damage deposit, if you want to call it that, that the industry would have to put down. That would kick in in the sense that if there was an impact to water quality or quantity in a water well then that would be paid for by industry according to the damage that was done." 

Bringing up another issue, Greenhill resident Lawrence Wuest pointed out that in all of the government information released regarding the shale gas recommendations, there has been no mention of a health impact assessment the industry will have on local communities.

Wuest said New Brunswick's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Eilish Cleary, won't be issuing her report on how the province will monitor the effects of industry on public health until summer. He said this makes it difficult for citizens to be fully informed for discussions during the consultation process.  

"We're expected to comment on these discussion papers without having seen a health impact assessment...at the FORUMe in Moncton, there was not a health panelist in that whole series of panelists," said Wuest.

The panel's Annie Daigle said the Department of Health is doing it's own independent health  report in consultation with the Natural Gas Group. It will be releasing something publicly later this year.

"It's not in our documents. That was on purpose, to have it separate. It's a benefit to them somewhat, for us to be putting out what government's recommendations are for regulations on what may or may not be permitted in the province should shale gas development proceed. They've been fully briefed and are aware of what the problems are," she said.

Going past the scheduled 8:30 pm deadline for the meeting, the panel continued to listen for about another half hour before moderator Belliveau wound things down. 

There are seven more meetings scheduled for the panel around the province. In the video below, LaPierre talks of last night's meeting and when he expects to turn in his report to government.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Two men break into home of elderly couple in Belledune

District 9 RCMP in Belledune are looking for the public's help in locating and identifying two men who entered the home of an elderly couple and demanded money.

At approximately 9:15 p.m. on June 10, 2012, District 9 RCMP in Belledune were called to a break and enter at the home of an elderly couple.  The couple had been tied up by two men who were demanding money. The man and woman suffered minor injuries but did not require hospitalization. 

RCMP are looking for two men described as being 5'8" to 5' 10' tall.  One was tall and skinny while the other man is of a heavier build.  Both were dressed in black and wearing face masks.  One spoke English, while the other spoke French.

Anyone with information about this incident or seen two men matching this description on the evening of June 10 in Belledune is asked to contact District 9 RCMP in Belledune at 506-237-3030 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

Activists take action against Bill C-38 to MP's office

Materials at Ashfield's office. Photo: Michelle Davis, ChoraChroma Photographic
On Saturday morning Occupy Fredericton took protest action against the federal government's Bill C-38 at the constituency office of MP Keith Ashfield. 

Frustrated with the gutting of the Fisheries Act embedded in the bill, the group made it's concerns known to Ashfield by affixing images and written material to the door of his office.

Photo: Michelle Davis, ChoraChroma Photographic
According to online publication, The Lawyers Weekly, the changes to the Fisheries Act look set to jeopardize fish habitat:

"Bill C-38 makes a significant and controversial amendment to the Fisheries Act that would repeal and combine the prohibitions against the “harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat” and against the killing of fish, with a single new prohibition on any activity that results in “serious harm to fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or aboriginal fishery or fish that support such a fishery.” The new term “serious harm” is defined as “the death of fish or any permanent alteration to, or destruction of, fish habitat.”

The narrower provision has raised questions about whether the phrase “commercial, recreational or aboriginal fisheries” excludes fish in water bodies such as small streams, tributaries or wetlands. It has also raised concerns about the effect of causing damage to fish that does not actually result in death."
Photo: Michelle Davis, ChoraChroma Photographic
The proposed changes to the Fisheries Act in Bill C-38 have so incensed not one, but four former federal Fisheries and Oceans ministers of both Liberal and Conservative stripes — Tom Siddon, David Anderson, John Fraser, and Herb Dhaliwal, all privy councillors in B.C.  — that in last Saturday's Globe and Mail they jointly penned an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper decrying the changes the bill will bring as it effectively ends the protection of fish habitat.

That put them in concert with 600 Canadian scientists who have also urged the prime minister to "abandon this initiative [BillC-38] as it is currently drafted" because changing the law "would be a most unwise action, which would jeopardize many important fish stocks and the lakes, estuaries and rivers that support them."

Photo: Michelle Davis, ChoraChroma Photographic
The Occupy group plans upcoming action on Bill C-38 around the city to bring more awareness of changes that come with the proposed federal legislation.