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Conservative candidate claims he can force N.S. to accept fracking

“I think if he wants to get Maritimers angry with him, that’s a good way to do it”

4 min read
caption Kevin O’Leary.
caption Kevin O’Leary.

Nova Scotia has held an indefinite moratorium on fracking since 2014, but Conservative leadership candidate Kevin O’Leary says he intends to change that.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is a process to get shale gas. It involves injecting high amounts of water, sand and chemicals into the earth at high pressures, which causes rock formations to break apart, and the natural gas that’s trapped inside to be released.

Possible risks in this process include contaminating local drinking water. A study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, found that at a fracking site in Marcellus Shale, P.A., about 75 per cent of wells about within one kilometre were contaminated with methane.

The Ecology Action Centre (EAC) in Nova Scotia is one organization opposed to fracking.

“Studies have been shown it leads to higher greenhouse gas emissions. It’s extraction of fossil fuel; it’s dangerous,” says Emma Norton, Energy Conservation Coordinator at the EAC. “Nova Scotians have spoke out against fracking.”

In an interview with the Chronicle Herald, O’Leary who was born in Quebec, says, “I want to see development of natural gas, period and it’s going to happen. This is the domain of each premier but at the end of the day, if their policies are not pro-jobs then they’ll have to deal with me. That’s how I lead.”

Repeated calls to the provincial Conservative party were not returned, as well as emails to O’Leary’s team through his website.

Frank Parker is a consultant at Crestview Strategy, a public affairs agency. He thinks these mistakes could hurt O’Leary chances at the election.

“O’Leary is going to say a lot of things. He doesn’t have government experience; he doesn’t have political experience yet,” says Parker. “I don’t know how much of it can be taken literally or how much of it is just posturing. But statement like that, and he’s made a few, are certainly going to make voters look at him and wonder if he is being serious.”

Norton believes this is one way to anger Nova Scotians.

“I think if he wants to get Maritimers angry with him, that’s a good way to do it, since Nova Scotians very clearly spoke out against fracking,” says Norton. “I’m sure that Nova Scotians would not appreciate another person from away telling us what to do.”

In 2012, the then New Democratic Party government created a two-year moratorium on fracking. It was turned into an indefinite ban in 2014 by the Liberal government, with support of the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party (NSNDP).

Gary Burrill, leader of the NSNDP, says he’s not surprised by O’Leary’s remarks.

“This isn’t entirely startling,” he says. “This is the Conservative view.”

When the legislation was introduced back in 2014, it was opposed by Nova Scotia Conservative leader Jamie Baillie, according to the CBC.

Burrill says the NSNDP doesn’t want to see it changed, and that he believes Nova Scotians don’t want to see it changed either.

“This is what we don’t want, communities in Nova Scotia have major concerns about the availability and quality of our drinking water. We don’t want any gas development, any shale gas exploration,” says Burrill. “Anything of this sort that will place that in any kind of jeopardy.”

O’Leary also intends to lower corporate tax rates and eliminate carbon tax altogether.

“I’m basically going to have to reverse everything Justin Trudeau did,” says O’Leary.

The Conservative leadership election will be held in May 2017.

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