Question: is there a Conflict of Interest in the NB Commission on Hydro-Fracking?

Some Questions about the Legitimacy of the NB Fracking Commission

KENT NOT FOR SHALE

1   About the McLaughlins 

A man named Andrew McLaughlin was recently hired by Major Drilling. According to their website, Major Drilling “is one of the world’s largest drilling services companies primarily serving the mining industry,” and “provides all types of drilling services including surface and underground coring, directional, reverse circulation, sonic, geotechnical, environmental, water-well, coal-bed methane and shallow gas.” Sounds like this Andrew McLaughlin is closely associated with deep shale fracking operations.

Here’s the question: is Andrew the son (or other close relation) of John McLaughlin, the man who is the Chair of the NB Commission on Hydraulic Fracturing? Someone told me Andy is John’s boy. Mind you, I did not want to believe that Premier Brian Gallant’s Fracking Commission could be skewed in favour of the fracking industry, who are known for their “drill, baby, drill” practices because that is the only way to make deep shale extraction possible. So, what’s the scoop on this?

2   About Major Drilling

The CEO and President of Major Drilling is Francis McGuire, the former Deputy Minister of Business NB and former head of NB Power during the failed attempt to sell NB’s electric system to Quebec. Here is some background info about Francis and his commitment to Major Drilling. This man seems to be motivated by money and the gambling challenge of private industry, at the cost of anything else perhaps…

For starters, Francis’ debacle on the NB Power sell-off issue makes it clear the man has no idea about the significance of “social license.” Now, he is not in government any longer, so a person might say he does not need to be concerned with social license issues, UNLESS he is flouting the integrity of the NB Fracking Commission by hiring someone who can use family connections to make sure the Commission comes up with the recommendation to proceed with fracking.

Here are the questions: Assuming for a moment that Andrew IS John’s son, and I have no way of knowing this for sure but someone told me he is, then which came first: the chicken or the egg? Did Andrew get hired by Major Drilling to sway the Fracking Commission, or did Andrew know the Fracking Commission will recommend lifting the Moratorium so he took this job to be in the right place at the right time? Or both perhaps?

3   About Frank McKenna

Frank McKenna, former Premier of our province, is a huge booster of fracking in New Brunswick. Frank is also buddy-buddy close with Francis McGuire.

Frank’s 2014 speech in Saint John is probably the best synopsis of his real views on the topic. He not only thinks shale gas fracking is the salvation of the province, he also derides the idea of listening to shale gas opponents, calling us an “extremely vocal, anti-fracking minority” and “blowhards” who “seize control of the agenda” using “mob rule.”

Here are the facts on the matter of whether those of us who oppose fracking are a minority. In all surveys done to date and released to the public, our province’s population is split just about 50-50 on the simple topic of shale gas extraction industrial development. However, as soon as the question is complicated with balancing this development against the priority of protecting our environment, the environment has won in all public opinion surveys. In one memorable one during the Alward government, more than 80% of the population said they would not support shale gas development if it could negatively affect the natural environment. We all know it is absolutely impossible to “do” shale gas without damaging the environment.

On November 5 2015, Frank spoke at a business conference in Saint John. Not normally a patient man, he is quoted as saying that the fracking moratorium (the same one he abhorred in 2014) is now fine with him. “When it comes to the provincial fracking moratorium,” he “is satisfied” with “the process,” and says we (industry) just “need to be patient.”

Here are the questions: Is Frank patient now because he knows his crony Old Boys network already has the fix in? Does this seem like a logical conclusion for Frank to reach, because of the direct line between Frank and Francis at Major Drilling, especially as it seems that Andrew may be the son of NB Fracking Commission Chair John? Or is there some other reason Frank all of a sudden feels the Fracking Commission is doing a fine job?

4   About the NB Commission on Hydraulic Fracturing’s Work

The thing is, the Government of New Brunswick (GNB) just took a gigantic step backwards on gaining social license for any industrial activities that could have or will have negative impacts on health and environment. In December, GNB fired for “no cause” the one person in the entire civil  service that the medical community and grassroots communities knew we could trust to speak the truth about whether provincial policies were good for people and the environment that sustains us. I am speaking of our former exemplary Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eilish Cleary. So, like many others, I am in a state of hyper-vigilance about what GNB has up their sleeves next.

As Cheryl Robertson, the member of the Fracking Commission who does their folksy communicating, has posted on their website, “one of the core findings of our work” is that “distrust of public institutions runs deep” among New Brunswickers. Good one, Sherlock! She continues, “There is anger, frustration and a strong sense of weariness on all sides…”

Here are the questions: given the obvious pro-fracking standpoint of Major Drilling can the Government of New Brunswick set to rest the questions that are floating around right now, about whether Andrew McLaughlin may or may not be directed related to the Commission’s Chair John McLaughlin? If this suggested malfeasance is indeed true, can the Fracking Commission Chair explain how this is compatible with the Commission’s online Code of Conduct? Is this perhaps a true conflict of interest? Was it declared? If it was declared, where and when? And even if it was declared, does that make it right?

 

It is an unfortunate thing when a citizen of this province is forced to address
a major issue like this one in an online blog, simply asking questions…
From my standpoint, if this is confirmed, it totally justifies the public’s
deep distrust of GNB, and would be one more nail in the coffin of social license.

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— Ann Pohl wrote this on February 1, 2016 —

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One thought on “Question: is there a Conflict of Interest in the NB Commission on Hydro-Fracking?

  1. Ann: You go girl! Andrew IS John McLaughlin’s son. At least that is what a trusted acquaintance of mine (who is involved with energy in NB) told me. I thought it was ‘interesting’ at the time, and I shared it with the Peace and Friendship Alliance last weekend. Margo

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