The eleventh Annual Atlantic Canada Energy Summit took place on October 3 and 4 at the Delta Hotel in Saint John, New Brunswick. Hosted by the oil and gas industry, the conference featured speakers such as Paul Browning, President and CEO of Irving Oil; Steve Pohlod, President of the Energy East Pipeline; and New Brunswick Premier, David Alward. Tickets cost $2,367 for the general public and $1,915 for members of Aboriginal communities and public sector workers. Presentation topics included investment opportunities for energy infrastructure, the status of TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline, and the feasibility of shipping crude oil to the deep sea port at Saint John for export to the U.S Gulf. Renewable energy development and the changes to federal environmental assessments were also topics addressed.
In response to this conference, the Council of Canadians hosted a counter-summit from October 2 to 4. The conference brought together multiple stakeholders to engage in a panel discussion, workshops, and a rally centred on the future of energy in the Atlantic provinces.
In a statement describing the Energy for Everyone Summit, Council of Canadians board member Leticia Chair said that “[F]racked gas, tar sands pipelines, and nuclear energy aren’t the future—they’re the past. The Atlantic Energy Summit promotes this extreme energy to industry insiders. Energy for Everyone brings people together to learn and organize for the sustainable Atlantic energy future we deserve.”
People from across the Atlantic region and the country attended the Energy for Everyone Summit. Many of the attendees came from environmental groups, such as 350.org and the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, while others attended as concerned citizens, landowners, and as political representatives. Nine Mount Allison students from Brad Walters’s environmental activism class also attended the conference.
The event began on Wednesday evening with a panel discussion featuring Maude Barlow, the Council of Canadians National Chairperson; Alma Brooks, a member of the Maliseet Grand Council from Saint Mary’s First Nation; and Catherine Abreau, the Regional Coordinator of the Atlantic Canada Sustainable Energy Coalition. Popular topics of discussion included the proposed Energy East pipeline, hydrofracking in New Brunswick, and a renewable energy future for Eastern Canada.
Alma Brooks opened the discussion by emphasizing that the creation of a sustainable energy future for New Brunswick will rely on pressure and participation from all communities, regardless of origin. Maude Barlow, who is currently on her national book release tour of Blue Future, followed speaking to the water contamination risks associated with many of the fossil fuel projects currently taking place in the Atlantic region.
“There is no such thing as a pipeline that doesn’t leak,” she said in reference to TransCanada’s proposed Energy East line.
Catherine Abreau rounded off the discussion with an optimistic tone, highlighting the immense potential and leadership that Atlantic Canada holds in wind, solar, and tidal power.
On Thursday afternoon, while David Alward was speaking inside the Delta, the counter-summit participants marched in the streets of uptown Saint John. Dressed as ‘fracked fries’ and raindrops, they shouted, “no pipelines, no tankers” as the RCMP escorted them to outside the Brunswick Square Shopping Centre where Maude Barlow and David Coon, the leader of the New Brunswick Green Party, spoke. Two Mt. A students also addressed the crowd, voicing their concerns over the Energy East pipeline and what they described as Canada’s over-reliance on fossil fuels. The students voiced their support for a renewable energy future and called on other youth to become involved and informed on current environmental issues.
While the majority who attended the Energy for Everyone Summit were over the age of thirty, third-year international relations and geography student Sharoni Mitra said, “the conference really validated that youth can work with older people on these issues,” continuing that “as a young New Brunswicker, five years ago I never would have seen the province as a hotbed for environmental activism, but today it clearly is.”