As the fracking follies continue. . .

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It’s always heartening to realize that those we elect to high, public office hold each other to the same standard of comportment as do the rest of us. After all, if we can’t count on the statesmen among us, we can surely depend on the ready, nearly endless, supply of clowns.

And so it was last week when New Brunswick’s Tory energy critic, Jake Stewart, had this to say in the House about the Liberal government’s decision to extend a partial, four-year payroll refund, reportedly worth $150,000, to internationally based Clean Harbors’ Saint John operation:

“I am sure that the minister of Energy and Mines and the premier are very excited to have this company, one of the leading suppliers of hydraulic fracturing waste treatment and disposal services in the Bakken, Marcellus, and Utica shale formations, established in New Brunswick. . .It is interesting to learn that this government is providing taxpayer-funded assistance for existing staff to a company that has such a high level of expertise in the treatment and disposal of hydraulic fracturing waste when the same government, just months ago, implemented policies that actually prohibit this industry in which Clean Harbors is a leading service provider.

To which Premier Brian Gallant gamely responded, “I understand his (Mr. Stewart’s) frustration. I understand why he is so confused. The members opposite are so fixated on fracking that they cannot fathom that we can create jobs, even though there is a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing. The member cannot fathom. . .that a business like Clean Harbors can create jobs in the province, even though there is a moratorium.”

With which, in turn, Gary Kelly, vice-president of business sales for Clean Harbors, naturally agreed (of sorts). He told the Saint John Telegraph-Journal: “We felt that there was a need here. A few years ago one of the competitors closed up shop, so we felt there was an opportunity.”

Added Economic Development Minister Rick Doucet: “The company is tied in very well with the industrial sector in Saint John – with the pulp and paper industry and with the oil industry. . .Any company, especially a world-class operation such as this, located in 50 places around the world and with 13,000 people working for it, that stands and wants to open up shop in New Brunswick and wants to represent New Brunswick is a bonus for us.

“Clean Harbors has a very broad range of services that it offers in the sectors – the cleaning services and products, the recycling of oil into base, the blending of lubricating oils, the high-pressure and chemical cleaning, and the disposal of hazardous waste.”

In other words, for a polluting province, such as New Brunswick, Clean Harbor is an economic, jobs-generating boon. Its record is apparently sterling; its knowledge about these matters, exquisite.

So, then, the path seems clear: Ask this company what it would do to meet one or more of the provincial government’s requirements for lifting the ban on hydraulic fracturing. It couldn’t hurt, and it might even work to ease this absurd toothache that is the shale-gas debate.

It might, at least, serve to bring Conservative and Liberal interests in Fredericton closer together on what must surely be their joint interest, which is nothing more or less important than the economic and social integrity of the province both groups profess to love and cherish.

Or, perhaps, I am finally, fatally naïve, after all.

Maybe all we in the peanut gallery terminally expect of our so-called democracy are the clowns masquerading as statesmen.

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