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New Brunswick groups hold Press Conference to question government's Water Strategy

by Council of Canadians - Fredericton Chapter


March 22, 2016

 

“Strengthen, not weaken, the protection of our rivers, bays and drinking water”, says New Brunswick groups questioning the government’s Water Strategy.

 

FREDERICTON, N.B. –  On World Water Day, March 22nd,  several citizen groups joined the Wolastoq Grand Council and held a Press Conference today in Fredericton to call on the Gallant government for the immediate halt to the hastily-planned review process for the New Brunswick’s new Water Strategy. 

 

“The process is a sham.”, says Mark D’Arcy, New Brunswick Energy East Campaigner for the Council of Canadians.  “The Gallant Government is proposing a new strategy to manage our drinking water and waterways with industry and to replace our current water classification regulation.  The process is not democratic.  The process would weaken, not strengthen, our protection of water.  And the process ignores the reality of climate change, that peoples’ lives and communities are at stake.”

 

The process is not democratic.

 

Brian Kenny, NB Minister of Environment and Local Government, released the Discussion Paper entitled ‘Working Together to Build a Water Strategy for New Brunswick” on March 6th.  Less than two weeks later, six Open Houses in rapid succession have been scheduled to gather people’s input with written feedback welcome until April 29th (see link below to government website).

 

“Why has there been limited advertising for these Open House consultations and why is the lead time for this input so rushed?,” asks Mark D’Arcy. “Why is the government conducting secret stakeholder meetings with watershed groups and municipalities that excludes the public? And why is there a third tier of secret stakeholder meetings only with industry. You can’t have a democracy with secret meetings. Is this to pave the way for large-scale projects such as Energy East, Sisson Brook, and shale gas fracking? Premier Brian Gallant needs to halt this process now and start an open and meaningful public process.”

 

Ann Pohl, Chair of the Council of Canadians – Kent County Chapter says, “We endorse this call for an open, transparent, engaged and valid process to determine water protection policy and regulations.”

 

Sharlene Paul, Clanmother speaking on behalf of the Wolastoq Grand Council, says, “It is wrong of Premier Brian Gallant to release any Water Strategy without first initiating discussions with our people.  Our recent declarations here in our non-ceded Wolastoq Homeland – the ‘Water Declaration’ last May 2015 in Red Head, and our ‘Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth’ in February 2016 - are very clear about the importance of water:  The inherent right to water as a source of life.”

 

The process is going to weaken, not strengthen, our protection of water.

 

Lawrence Wuest, a retired scientist who lives in the Nashwaak River watershed, asked, “Why is the government disempowering and dismantling at least six (6) current volunteer watershed organizations along the Saint John River?  The new water strategy proposes to exclude from provincial legislation almost all the individual watersheds directly impacted by the Energy East Pipeline, the Sisson Tungsten Mine, the Minco PLC Woodstock Manganese Project, and shale gas development in the great swath of New Brunswick currently under gas and oil exploration license and lease."

 

Mr. Wuest emphasizes, "This would remove local community control, monitoring and advocacy in the Nashwaak Watershed, the Meduxnekeag Watershed, the Cannan River/Washademoak Lake Watershed, the Belleisle Bay Watershed, the Kennebecasis Watershed, the Hammond River Watershed, and all other existing sub-watersheds of the Saint John River.”

 

“Why won’t they implement the Watershed Classification System? “, asks Bill Ayer. “This is the same system successfully used by the State of Maine, which would allow NB and ME to easily exchange data on their shared Transboundary watersheds in the St. Croix and St. John River Basins.”

 

“We must listen to our Ombudsman,” says Margo Sheppard, member of Council of Canadians – Fredericton chapter. “Ombudsman Charles Murray ruled in 2014 that the province’s Water Classification Regulation was legal and that it was reckless not to put it into practice. Ombudsman Murray stressed that this Water Classification was made a strong legal tool by an amendment of the Clean Water Act on December 19, 2008.”

 

 “The language in the discussion paper with respect to the management and control of water by industry, including ‘water management partnerships’, is too vague and is also very troubling”, says Susan Linkletter, Vice President of the Organic Crop improvement Association, and former Executive Director of the Petitcodiac Watershed Alliance,

 

“The Water Strategy is proposing a triple bottom line, that is, of managing water for people, nature, and business.  Why, when we know the value of clean drinking water, is the Province laying a foundation that would allow for the bulk transport of water between watersheds in New Brunswick, as well as the export of water out of New Brunswick?”, says Jean Louis Deveau, Chair of the Council of Canadians – Fredericton chapter.

 

The process ignores the reality of climate change.

 

“The new Water Strategy ignores the focus on water in the recent NB report of the Commission on Hydraulic Fracturing”, says Jim Emberger, spokesperson for New Brunswick Anti-Shale Gas Alliance (NBASGA).  “The Commissioner detailed steps to protect surface water and groundwater, including the “comprehensive mapping and monitoring of New Brunswick’s groundwater aquifers” and “to mitigate the impacts of climate change-related effects, such as extreme weather, on New Brunswick’s watersheds, coasts and land base”.

 

Our group has consistently warned Premier Gallant and his Ministers of the need to stop the unsustainable forest clear cutting and the destruction of our wetlands,” says Maggie Connell, past Co-chair Council of Canadians – Fredericton chapter. “The environmental protection of our forests and watersheds must be an urgent priority in order to protect downstream communities.”

 

Marilyn Merritt-Gray a resident of Kars, one of the Belleisle Bay communities hardest hit by the Fall 2015 rain storm, says “We know all about bad roads down here, spring flooding and washouts, but the September storm was overwhelming. The government says they have already spent $15 million on bridge and road reconstruction, but even with that in our roads in places remain barely passable and other roads remain closed. For weeks the river in front of my house ran brown.”

 

Halt the current Water Strategy process and start over. 

 

“It’s important that we halt this current process and start over with a more evidence-based document and with an open and transparent process, a process which includes all Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in New Brunswick and the Chief Medical Officer of Health,” says Russ Letica, First Nation Consultation Coordinator from the Wolastoqiyik Nation.

 

The last planned meeting for ‘invitation-only stakeholders’ is in Fredericton on Wednesday, March 23rd from 2:00pm-4:00pm at the Fredericton Inn.  The Open House follows at 4:30pm-6:30pm, also at the Fredericton Inn.  We encourage the general public to attend these meetings, ask these important questions and your local concerns about the protection of our water, and ask the Gallant government to halt the current Water Strategy process.  The process should start only after Premier Gallant properly answers these questions. 

 

                                                       - 30 -

Media contacts:

Margo Sheppard, Council of Canadians - Fredericton chapter

Fredericton New Brunswick

Phone:  506-476-9708

E-mail: ntnb1@bellaliant.net

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