Opportunity, Risk, and Public Acceptability: The Question of Shale Gas Exploitation in Québec

October 2014

The Canadian province of Québec has the largest reserves of shale gas in Eastern Canada, but Québeckers are in the midst of a heated debate over the desirability of exploiting this resource. At issue is the controversial technique of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." The provincial government has decided to proceed cautiously. In 2011, Québec instituted a temporary moratorium, still in effect, on shale gas development in order to conduct consultations with experts and members of the public that has continued to present day. Recently, the government released the results of the experts’ report, the Strategic Environmental Evaluation. This paper highlights the report’s key findings about the potential economic benefits, environmental risks, and public acceptability of shale gas development. Québec’s balanced approach to the complex, technical issue of shale gas development represents a deliberative approach to governance that emphasizes extensive public engagement.