Municipality's right to decide

19 JULY 2010

Provincial government must respect municipality’s right to decide

The New Brunswick Green Party is calling on the provincial government to respect the democratic decision of the Town of Sackville to prohibit oil and gas exploration within municipal boundaries. 

At a council meeting, the Sackville Town Council voted to prohibit exploration by Petroworth Resources Inc. on 18 square kilometres of town land that is part of a larger 90-square kilometre zone, or more than 35,000 hectares in southwestern New Brunswick. Premier Shawn Graham’s father Alan Graham is Chairman of Petroworth Resources Inc.

Councillor Margaret Tusz-King who is also the Green Party candidate for the Tantramar Riding, led the municipal opposition to the motion to approve exploration.  She cited several reasons including inadequate provincial regulations to protect people, lands and animals; lack of an escrow account in case of environmental catastrophe; and the demonstrated dangers of water contamination in the actual mining of shale oil or gas.

Provincial law gives the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) the power to override the decision of the municipality.  According to Green Party president Janice Harvey, to do so would clearly demonstrate that New Brunswick is run by corporations, not citizens.

“Rural New Brunswick has been continually exploited for industrial development, whether it be for forestry, quarrying, minerals and now oil and gas.  It’s time the people who live where such activity takes place have the power to decide whether and how it proceeds.”

The Telegraph Journal reported the president of Petroworth, Neal Mednick, as saying, “I sent an email to the DNR saying, ‘It’s time for you to exercise your jurisdictional authority here.” 

Said Harvey, “This is the height of arrogance.  These companies come into New Brunswick, enticed with sweetheart deals from the government, and fully expect the provincial government to do their bidding and deliver a compliant public.  They treat New Brunswick like a fiefdom and the people like serfs.  That’s what the Premier means when he says New Brunswick is open for business.”

The Green Party would make sure that local communities and municipal governments have new powers of decision-making and new avenues for revenue generation.  “Democracy works best when people can directly influence the decisions that affect their lives.  This means putting land use and resource development decisions in the hands of the communities most affected.  This is the key to achieving local self-reliance, one of the Green Party’s principles,” Harvey continued.

 “The landscape is littered with examples of industrial projects that were imposed on communities and landowners against their wishes.  The provincial government has proven to be willing to approve anything in the name of economic development, running roughshod over local people who have to live with the consequences.  This needs to change.” 

The Penobsquis situation is a case in point.  Residents in the vicinity of the Potash Corporation’s mine have lost their water allegedly because of the mining activity.  Yet the corporation has not been held to account and the homeowners are now forced to buy water from Sussex Corner. 

“The government completely abandoned these people and protected the company from any liability,” said Harvey.  “It is completely unfair and exploitative.  We need a system of government that gives local communities the right and the means to determine their own destiny and benefit directly from any decisions they make.”

“Sackville has drawn a line in the sand for the Liberal government.  Shawn Graham’s choice is either to respect local democracy or hand the Town of Sackville over to Petroworth.  His decision will send a clear message to the electorate.  The Liberals are either a government for the people or a government for corporations.”