POLITICS

New Brunswick health minister unclear whether shale gas report will be released

10/03/2012 12:21 EDT | Updated 12/03/2012 05:12 EST
FREDERICTON - New Brunswick's health minister declined to say Wednesday whether the provincial government would release a report on the shale gas industry in its entirety.

Madeleine Dube held a news conference hours after the Opposition attacked the government for not releasing the report by the province's chief medical health officer.

At one point, Dube said the government would release Dr. Eilish Cleary's recommendations. But she later said the government would review the report and after that it would be released.

When asked repeatedly whether the government would release the recommendations or the report in full, she was unclear.

"We are going to go through the process, and certainly what is important for New Brunswickers is to make sure the health risk is taken into consideration when we're talking about shale gas, and obviously we are," she said.

"We are doing our due diligence and we're going to release the information."

Earlier in the day, the Liberals called on the Progressive Conservative government to release the report immediately.

Liberal health critic Bill Fraser said the public has the right to such information.

"People want to make an informed decision on the shale gas file," Fraser said.

"How can they make an informed decision if they don't have access to the information — information that the government has access to?"

Cleary has issued recommendations on how the provincial government can track the health effects of the shale gas industry. She isn't giving interviews on the matter, the government has said.

Fraser said the government's reticence to make Cleary's findings public represents a broken promise by Premier David Alward to be open and transparent.

"Just the fact that he's holding back this report and not releasing it leads to speculation, leads to fear and it creates a lot of unknowns for people," Fraser said.

The Liberals have called for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, until all the benefits and risks of the shale gas industry are known.

Fracking involves blasting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into a well bore to split the surrounding rock and release trapped pockets of natural gas.

In May, the government appointed University of Moncton biologist Louis LaPierre to lead a series of public meetings on its proposed shale gas regulations.

Environment Minister Bruce Fitch said Cleary will meet with LaPierre this week to discuss her findings, and he expects they will be reflected in LaPierre's report.

He said LaPierre's report is expected to be completed for release later this month.