In a setback for shale development in New Brunswick, voters returned the Liberal party to power in the Canadian province and sent the pro-shale Progressive Conservative (PC) party to defeat. The election was marred by problems with vote tabulation machines.

According to reports, the Liberals won 42.7% of the popular vote and 27 of the 49 seats in the Legislative Assembly, compared to 34.7% of the popular vote and 21 seats for the PC party. The NDP followed with 13% of the popular vote; the Greens won 6.6% and one legislative seat, and the People’s Alliance got 2.1% of the vote.

Premier David Alward, a staunch supporter of shale development in the province (see Shale Daily, Nov. 28, 2012), conceded defeat on Tuesday and said he would resign as head of the PC party. Brian Gallant, the leader of the Liberal party, will become the province’s next premier.

Canada’s CBC News reported that Alward, when asked about the future of the shale gas industry in the province, said he hoped Gallant “will find the courage to do the right thing and continue to move forward.”

Gallant and the Liberals reportedly campaigned on a promise to impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in the province, with the premier-designate calling for more studies on the environmental and health impacts from the practice.

According to reports, the province’s electoral commission, Elections New Brunswick, had technical problems with vote tabulation machines during the counting on Monday night. The problems caused a two-hour delay and caused concern that memory cards in the machines were defective and were creating discrepancies in the vote.

Some PC officials and supporters reportedly demanded a hand recount, but tensions appeared to have cooled Tuesday and Alward did not mention a recount.

The PC party held 41 seats in a 55-member Legislative Assembly before dissolution, compared to 13 seats for the Liberals and one independent. A redistribution of seats based a Canadian census taken in 2011 reduced the number of seats in the legislature to 49. Alward and the Progressive Conservatives were elected in a landslide in 2010

In June, an alliance of groups opposed to shale development asked a court to impose a moratorium on unconventional oil and gas exploration and fracking until government officials can prove they are safe (see Shale Daily, June 26).

Last year, anti-shale protesters blocked a stretch of Highway 11 near Rexton, NB, for several weeks, preventing employees of SWN Resources Canada, a subsidiary of Southwestern Energy Co. (SWN), from accessing a facility where the company parks seismic trucks and equipment. Violence erupted after authorities moved in to enforce a court order to clear the highway and allow SWN access to the facility. At least 40 people were arrested and five police vehicles destroyed (see Shale Daily, Oct. 18, 2013).

The province has been largely quiet since then. According to reports, in May a group of anti-shale protesters marched for three days from the Elsipogtog First Nation to SWN’s offices in Moncton, NB, to deliver letters stating their opposition to shale gas development.

SWN has licenses from the provincial government to perform seismic testing in New Brunswick, home to the prospective Frederick Brook Shale. The emerging play lies beneath the Hiram Brook tight gas sands in both the Sussex and Elgin sub-basins (see Shale Daily, Dec. 7, 2010).