New Brunswick Premier David Alward says his government will deliver a blueprint in this legislative session that will set out how the province plans to proceed with shale gas development.
The Progressive Conservative government delivered a throne speech Tuesday to kick off the fall session as it grapples with a $10-billion debt, a $356-million deficit and an unemployment rate of 11.6 per cent – the province's highest in nearly a decade.
The possibility of shale gas development brings the promise of jobs and could be an economic boon, and Mr. Alward said the blueprint will ensure a regulatory system is in place that includes adequate monitoring and enforcement before the province allows the industry to grow.
"Those are all things that we need to address to ensure that if we are able to develop natural gas in the future that we are going to have as big a benefit as we possibly can for New Brunswickers," Mr. Alward told a news conference before Lieutenant-Governor Graydon Nicholas delivered the speech.
Outside, a large crowd of people – both for and against shale gas development – marched on the front lawn of the legislature.
Opponent Terry Wishart said the people who signed a petition last year against shale gas development have been ignored.
But Lynn Farmakoulis said the province needs the shale gas industry if it is to get out of its financial mess.
"I think it's time we develop our resources and use them," Ms. Farmakoulis said. "We have people who are working in oil and gas out west and I think we have a responsibility to look at this very seriously."
Alward also used the throne speech to encourage NB Power to seek all avenues – including a possible lawsuit – in efforts to recoup the $1-billion in cost overruns for the refurbishment of the Point Lepreau nuclear power plant.
"If a lawsuit is something that makes sense, then that should be one of the options that is evaluated," he said.
Alward also promised in the throne speech to strike a ministerial committee on jobs and the economy. He said he also wants to introduce efforts aimed at boosting the number of people moving into New Brunswick, as well as increasing the value of commercial exports leaving the province.
The throne speech made no mention of a catastrophic drug plan and the government's plans to balance the books by 2014, both of which were key promises the Tories made during the 2010 election.
But the government said it will deliver a three-year capital budget during this session and a five-year health plan next year.