Shale gas is fuelling a political firestorm in Quebec, where a recent Léger Marketing poll found that three-quarters of residents want a moratorium on drilling. But neither Ottawa nor the province have any plans to curtail the industry. “Minister [Pierre] Arcand and Premier [Jean] Charest have taken the necessary steps to commence a process of exploration in shale gas. We support that process,” said federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice.
Still, the vocal majority, who’ve been vehemently protesting—and once forced an energy executive to flee a town hall meeting out of fear for his own safety—have earned a few small victories. The government is starting public hearings into the environmental impact of shale gas, and is scrambling to write industry regulations. Meanwhile, two of the biggest energy players in the province, Questerre Energy Corp. and Talisman Energy Inc., are pushing back a major exploration project by six months. They blame the public backlash, low natural gas prices and the high costs of importing workers and infrastructure.
But with some of Canada’s richest reserves and an industry expected to generate up to 19,000 jobs and $1 billion annually in tax revenue for Quebec, drilling is all but an inevitability, regardless of how many executives are sent running.