I didn’t get to this bit of news earlier in the week, so I will do so now.
On Tuesday (March 24), the New Brunswick government announced the members who will make up its commission on hydraulic fracturing.
The three-person commission will include a former chief justice (Guy Richard), a former university president (John McLaughlin) and a former community college board chair (Cheryl Robertson.)
You’ll notice there is no mention in the bios of Richard, McLaughlin or Robertson contained in the press released I’ve linked to above of any of them possessing any past experience regarding fracking or the oil and gas industry.
Compare that to the backgrounds of the members on Newfoundland and Labrador’s fracking review panel, which has one resource engineer and one geological engineer.
Wouldn’t it have made more sense to have included at least one member on New Brunswick’s fracking commission that had a bit of industry expertise?
But appointing industry “insiders” to review panels can be a tricky thing. The public usually assumes government will favour big business over protecting the environment 100 times out of 100. So, name a couple of engineers to your fracking panel and you get accused of stacking it with too many industry friendly experts who might be biased on the subject of fracking.
To me, having three people with no specific industry background running New Brunswick’s fracking commission is no show stopper. Richard, McLaughlin and Robertson are obviously very smart people who are used to dealing with complex issues and making sense of them. It’s also probably good optics for the panel to not have anybody who could be accused of being pro oil and gas industry.
What isn’t good optics is not releasing the terms of reference for the commission to the public.
Terms of reference define the objectives and scope of a review, and as such are invaluable in understanding what the commission will (and will not) be looking at during this review.
Not making the terms of reference public seems odd, and it also makes it look like the government is trying to hide something.
As a result, Premier Brian Gallant and his government might want to get those terms of reference for the fracking review out in the public domain, and do it quickly.