Western Newfoundland’s Anti-Fracking Campaign: Exploring the Rise of Unexpected Community Mobilization

Angela V. Carter, Leah M. Fusco


This article aims to account for the unexpected rise of community mobilization against hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in western Newfoundland, Canada, since 2012. The oil industry is a significant economic driver in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and historically there has been very limited organized local public opposition to oil extraction in the province. Moreover, the western Newfoundland region is characterized by economic hardship and limited experience mobilizing against development projects, factors unlikely to foster mobilization. Yet in 2012, highly organized, dynamic, and broad-ranging opposition to fracking arose in this region, contributing to the provincial government’s de facto moratorium on fracking and creation of an external review process, the result of which makes fracking unlikely in the near future. Drawing predominantly on fieldwork and interviews from across the region, we attempt to understand this rise of community mobilization first by referencing McAdam and Boudet’s (2012) framework, which explores the key variables of political opportunities, civic capacity, and community context. However, finding that this framework cannot fully account for the rise of mobilization in western Newfoundland, we discuss what we understand as the central factors in this case: the dynamics of local citizens building a globally informed yet locally resonant anti-fracking campaign.

Keywords: hydraulic fracturing (fracking); oil development; community mobilization; Western Newfoundland; Newfoundland and Labrador

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The Journal of Rural and Community Development is supported by SSHRC.