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EDITORIAL: Call it what it is

This past weekend marked yet another chapter in the divisive debate over hydraulic fracturing in the province, with a public event held at Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook.

The overall stance on fracking was clear — “Don’t Frack NL” signs were handed out for $5 to those who attended Sunday’s event, which included expert panelists who all spoke out against using the controversial gas drilling method in the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

With so much information and misinformation about fracking available to the public, it can often be difficult to dissemenate truth from fiction. An informed public has to either do their own independent research and come to their own conclusions on the matter, or rely on groups and experts like those in attendance Sunday to provide them with accurate information.

The intention here is not to wade into the murky water of the fracking debate to decide who’s right and who’s wrong — if such a thing can ever be decided — but rather to call on both sides to inform the public accurately.

One of the attendees of Sunday’s event had this to say in summing up the meeting: “If it was all good for us ... I’d be hearing from way more people in this audience and around the table who would say fracking is a wonderful thing, but I haven’t heard it yet.”

That’s all well and good, but in a room that was decidedly anti-fracking, this statement doesn’t ring true. While some ardent fracking supporters may have the fortitude to attend this meeting, stand up and voice their opinion, it’s fair to say the majority of people would say nothing.

And if by some chance you went to the meeting expecting a debate, those visions would’ve quickly disappeared once you saw the signs and heard what the panelists had to say.

While it may seem like semantics, what was billed as a public forum on Sunday should more acurately have been called a rally — and rallying is fine, so long as the public isn’t left with the impression that the event is representative of all opinions.

This doesn’t mean they’re wrong for protesting, but we must be careful of unfairly influencing the public in debate that could have such high stakes economically, environmentally and emotionally.

The more persuasive arguments will be made at a forum where all sides can feel comfortable being heard.

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