Last week, Stephen McNeil told the Halifax Chamber of Commerce that he is willing to consider lifting the ban on hydraulic fracturing if a community builds local support for it. His comments are strategic political manoeuvring.
The Liberal party, which introduced the ban on fracking, now wants to make it clear to everyone that maintaining the public will to support the ban is everyone’s responsibility, except perhaps its own.
Justin Trudeau used this approach to justify abandoning electoral reform: blaming the population for not miraculously developing a unified voice. McNeil wants to weaken the ban without taking responsibility.
Let’s not dwell on how cynical it is to propose downloading the costs of a referendum or appropriate public consultation to municipalities, especially as McNeil’s own government has already paid for the Wheeler Report. Or, how fracking can release uranium and other radioactive minerals currently in our bedrock, Into our water supply, possibly contributing to our province’s already high bladder and kidney cancer rates.
Let’s instead consider why anyone might want to frack.
Fracking can contaminate groundwater and deplete our freshwater supply. Like coal mining, it is an industry that is dangerous, removes valuable resources from our province and can adversely affect the health of our population. Like coal mining (along with pulp and paper and cod fishing, and briefly, in Halifax, attracting Amazon), it is being positioned as our Last Chance to Get Rich!™
The number “60 billion dollars”, which has been proposed as a value on the natural gas that is embedded in our ground, may sound like a very juicy amount indeed, but that number is extrapolated, and is suggested to be a high estimate. Assume we start by finding a partner through our usual process of offering low to no taxes, payroll rebates, low- to no-interest, often forgivable loans, other subsidies, very favourable locations, plus an offer that we’ll take care of any ‘externalities’ like pollution. That partner will likely be some giant conglomerate with shareholders far afield. The timespan of the project will necessarily be short, as the price of alternative energies drops and the gas gets harder to extract. By the end, the amount generated in revenue to the province dwindles to a much smaller number, if any.
In 2014, the Globe & Mail reported that the number of green energy jobs surpassed jobs in the oilsands. We need to invest our province’s resources into building jobs that are long term and forward facing, instead of propping up dying industries.
Nova Scotia has tremendous natural resources and as we cultivate diverse new industries (like biomedical devices, ocean technology, video game development and nutriceuticals), our rich resources really only help us by staying here.
There are many Nova Scotians looking for natural resources labour jobs like those that fracking might supply. People want to stay in rural Nova Scotia and earn a living. If we assign ap
propriate value to sustainable forestry, organic and sustainable agriculture and animal husbandry, those jobs will be there for more than just a few years. If we build the right infrastructure, more opportunities will open up in these areas. We will find ourselves much better off in the long run. Nova Scotians will be healthier, and the odds are, both our health system and tourism operators will benefit.
As voters, every time you go to the polls, you can choose a same-old cynical party, or a hopeful, healthier future. Expect better of your elected officials. Tell Premier McNeil, frack that.