There's a most unlikely column on shale gas by a most unlikely writer hidden is a most unlikely section of the paper. It's in the sport section, C2. The writer, far from being an authority on shale gas, is a writer on the outdoors - you know, the place where all the sports fans go to watch baseball on TV.
It's a pretty waffly article, not taking much of a firm line on anything. He even says he believes the Alward government was only trying to do what was best for the province. (If they were, they were awfully shy about letting us in on the good news.) But in this otherwise soggy story is a stick of dunamite.
Exploration for shale gas is expensive. Major corporations do not take unnecessary risks. Before they began exploration, they would have drawn up legally binding agreements signed by the government, and guaranteeing them the right to drill. Such an agreement would almost certainly have contained the regulations, pretty slim ones, controlling their drilling. Such agreements must have been signed by both Graham and Alward. Such agreements would also, almost certainly, have laid down generous terms for company profits.
Now, it this were wonderfu news. wouldn't yuu have expected the Graham and Alward governments to shout it from the rooftops? But they didn't, did they?
If there are such agremments, we have been placed in one hell of a mess by a government that can only be called incompetent, supine and lying. And we've been betrayed by the province's newspapers not for the first time.
Consider it. Even if the Alward government were to find some integrity, brains and courage under a rock somewhere; even if it were to demand a moratorium on fracking for health reasons, it is likely the shale gas companies, on the basis of signed agreements, could sue us for billions. How could a government do something so stupid? How could it fail to tell us what it has done?
For openers, we have to demand publication of what has been signed. These are documents that commit us. We have a right to know what is in them. Are we in danger of accepting serious damage? Are we in danger of a crushing debt from lawsuits if we don't?
Exactly what have these irresonpsible louts in government done?
Of course, SWN is coming back in a year. It has a deal. In the run-up to that return, expect a heavy campaign against protesters, characterizing them as thugs. Expect heavy security when SWN comes back. These can be had on reasonable terms from the same companies that rent out mercenaries.
This latter part of the campaign also appears in today's paper. Check the op ed page. There's a column there by a hack for the shale gas industry. Protesters are a "few loud voices". They give the whole Maritimes a "black eye". There have been "assaults" on workers. That word has quite a range of meanings. Were workers savagely beaten? We any killed or crippled? Or it could mean standing in the way. But wouldn't using the word "assault" be inflammatory in the latter case?
You bet. And inflmmatory is what this article is about. She laments the idea that the message to the world is that we are thieves, thugs, and vandals. If she doesn't wnat the world to think in those bizzarely extravagant terms of what actually happened, why does she write it for public print?
The writer, Barbara Pike, writes in a style that will promote divisions, hatred, fears. She probably expects that will make us go into hiding. And if we don't, it will be used to justify force.
And, rather a big question. Where is the Irving family in all this? Do they have no interest in the energy future of New Brunswick? Isn't Mr. Irving the man who named himself a member of the goveronment, and who set up a band of his cronies to plan the economic future of New Brunswick? Isn't he the owner of the newspapers that have been pimping for the shale gas industry?
Where does he fit into all this? What's his cut?
Make no mistake. New Brunswick has been placed in a very dangerous position by economic schemers, and by the politicians they own. There is every sign that we are being bullied, robbed and, quite possibly, physically threatened.. And if we protest, we will be told we are disorderly, and force will be used against us.
New Brunswick has long been a province notable for the arrogance and greed of its business leaders, and for its contemptible politicians.
Take all that as a forecast for the coming year.