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Atlantic Canada's lost global geopolitical opportunity
I don’t say much these days that is controversial. When I tweeted yesterday that NB was a maple syrup/blueberry powerhouse I got a little rebuke from defenders of La Belle Province but we are a long way from the days when I would invoke serious vitriol.
So let’s revisit a theme that made me the target of a lot of bile a little over a decade ago: shale gas development.
I was a proponent of shale gas development, although no one paid for my position unlike so many others in the ‘fight’ those days. In fact, I was highly surprised when one well known journalist suggested publicly I was on someone’s payroll - unfortunately I never got the cheque.
I thought of this last week while listening to a podcast where an European diplomat lamented the fact Canada had not developed an east coast LNG industry. Canada has one of the largest LNG plants in the world under development in Canada’s greenest province (BC) but nothing ever happened here. I think there were at one point or another five different projects put forward including the most recent in Goldboro, NS.
During the ‘debate’ over shale gas development, I mentioned the possibility of export markets for the gas, thus amplifying the economic opportunity for NB and NS. Even proponents shut me down saying we will never get public support unless we focus on our own use of the gas.
Fast forward to 2022. If Germany and the rest of Europe had access to Canadian natural gas it would have made it much easier to use natural gas imports from Russia as a leverage point in the tensions over Ukraine. Imagine that. Little old Atlantic Canada with a strategic, geopolitical role along with billions in economic activity each year.
Most of you remember those days. If the polls were right, most of you were probably opposed to shale gas development. We were (and still are) living in an era when all you had to do was yell fire in a crowded room. No need to prove anything. Not even “where there is smoke, there is fire”. In that instance, “just trust me, there is fire” was enough.
Of course, there is no guarantee we would have had a natural gas industry. We didn’t even let the testing continue to see if the gas was viable. In fact, some of the testing in Albert County wasn’t particularly promising, as I recall.
According to Statistics Canada, the Maritimes imported a combined $4.5 billion in natural gas and natural gas liquids and related products between 2010 and 2018.
That’s $4.5 billion that could have been spent locally - paid out in wages and taxes and household spending here. Likely hundreds of millions in royalties too.
Add in the export market, and that amount would likely triple.
And we would have had the bonus of playing some small role in diffusing geopolitical tensions in Europe.
Now all we have is faded anti-shale gas signs scattered around Albert and Kent counties as a reminder…..