Fracking returning to NB after firing of top doctor, says provincial NDP



(Elsipogtog First Nation resident Amanda Polchies kneels with an eagle feather in front of a line of RCMP officers on Oct. 17, 2013. The iconic image received international recognition. APTN/Ossie Michelin)

APTN National News
New Brunswick’s top doctor was fired by the provincial Liberal government to clear the way for the lifting of a moratorium on shale gas exploration this spring, according to the leader of the provincial NDP.

Provincial NDP leader Dominic Cardy says a senior government source told him Eilish Cleary, New Brunswick’s now-fired chief medical officer, would stand in the way of a government decision to lift the moratorium.

A lifting of the moratorium would likely trigger a replay of the intense, Mi’kmaq-led protests that rocked the eastern part of the province throughout 2013. The demonstrations were centered around the Mi’kmaq community of Elsipogtog which was adamantly opposed to shale gas exploration in its claimed territory over fears it would lead to hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, and eventually poison the water.

As news spread of Cleary’s firing, a Facebook posting appeared calling on people to “warrior up.”

During the 2014 provincial election, the victorious Liberal party campaigned on a promise to impose a moratorium on shale gas exploration. Once in government, the Liberals created a commission to study the issue and give the government recommendations, expected in early 2016.

Cardy said Monday that the firing of Cleary was connected to the eventual lifting of the shale gas moratorium.

“I was told by a person in the bureaucracy today that Dr. Cleary would stand in the way of the report recommending that the moratorium be lifted,” said Cardy, in a Facebook message to APTN National News.

APTN contacted Premier Brian Gallant’s office seeking comment, but has yet not received a response. While in Ottawa for a premiers meeting with the prime minister in November, Gallant said consultation with First Nations was necessary on resource development projects.

Cleary had been the province’s chief medical officer since 2008 and in 2012 issued a report raised concerns about the health impacts of fracking.

She was also in the midst of conducting research into the use of glyphosate—a herbicide widely used on Crown land in the province—when she was put on leave several weeks ago.

Cleary announced Monday that she had been fired.

Cardy said there needs to be an independent investigation into why she was let go.

The NDP leader, who doesn’t have a seat in New Brunswick’s legislature, took to Facebook earlier Monday to criticize the Liberal government over the firing and linked it to the shale gas exploration moratorium.

“A senior source has told me Dr. Cleary had to be cleared away before the Liberals overturn their shale gas moratorium next spring,” wrote Cardy. “The Liberals used Dr. Cleary’s work to justify their first flip-flop on fracking. Now, with none of her recommendations having been acted upon, the Liberals need to make sure the Chief Medical Officer of Health is not around to point out their hypocrisy.”

The previous Tory provincial government was stuck with an about $10 million bill from the RCMP as a result of anti-fracking demonstrations. The demonstrations hit their apex on Oct. 17, 2013, when a heavily armed RCMP tactical unit raided an anti-fracking camp that had trapped shale gas exploration trucks.

The raid, which resulted in about 40 arrests, did not stop the demonstrations and they continued throughout November of that year and featured confrontations with the RCMP and burning tires on a provincial highway.

New Brunswick is also the end-point for the Energy East pipeline which faces grassroots opposition in the province and across the country.

TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline proposal would carry Alberta mined bitumen across the country to the Irving Oil refining compound in Saint John, NB.

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