The economist is referring to the controversial oil and gas removal method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. He recently spoke with some area municipal representatives and members of the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade, Corner Brook Port Corp. and Deer Lake Airport Authority about the economic impact of fracking.
“We are in a state of population decay,” Bruce said.
In some of the areas where there are potential for hydraulic fracturing, populations have declined by 30 per cent in the past two decades, according to the Corner Brook man. He also notes many of these areas are surviving economically based on government-transfer payments.
“Without some sort of private-sector investment in those communities, and I don’t see anybody lining up to invest, in a generation, I don’t know if anybody will be living there.”
Bruce clarifies he is not pro-fracking. However, if it is commercially viable, there is no doubt it has economic benefit to a region, he said.
The session was hosted by the Corner Brook Port Corp. and the Greater Corner Brook Board of Trade, and provided a review of reports by the Nova Scotia Independent Review Panel on Hydraulic Fracturing and the Council of Canadian Academies.
Jackie Chow, chief executive officer of the Corner Brook Port Corp., said it was important for municipal and business leaders to have opportunities to participate in a balanced, constructive discussion about the risks and benefits of oil and gas development in the region.
The Western Newfoundland Oil and Gas Committee, a partnership between the two organizations, encourages people to become informed about the industry in a proactive and socially responsible manner.
The committee feels the significant opportunity for social prosperity and improved quality of life that the industry represents is worth pursuing, according to a news release issued by the port corporation.
Board of Trade chairman Matthew Connolly supports allowing fracking. As somebody who does safety protocols for drilling operations, he said it is safe.
“The fracking process is safer than surgery today,” he said. “All you have to do is search the numbers on that and see how many people are dying from surgery every day.”
He said there is a need for more balanced and positive meetings pertaining to the issue, and less fearmongering in relation to social or environmental concerns.
Corner Brook Mayor Charles Pender said he has yet to form an opinion as he listens to the economic benefits compared with the social and environmental concerns. He said the discussion last week was well-balanced and exempt of exaggerated or unbelievable information.
“It’s very hard to filter through the rhetoric and see the real concerns we should be looking at,” he said.
The Western Star