By the People, For the People or Of the People: Influences Shaping the Social Licence Discourse of Hydraulic Fracturing in New Brunswick

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Somerville, Sheri
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Mount Saint Vincent University
The Narratives and Networks (N&N) Model of the Social Licence (Boutilier, 2020) is a new model proposed by R.G. Boutilier in 2020, which may have the potential to create more understanding about social licence (SL), its presence or absence, and how its complexities are navigated and negotiated among various discourse participants. This thesis illustrates the use of the N&N model by applying a qualitative Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) methodology to a case study (the New Brunswick hydraulic fracturing controversy occurring between 2012 and 2017) to assess the model’s usefulness for understanding the presence or absence of a social licence and its practical implications for communications professionals. First, this thesis reviews available scholarship identifying factors that contribute to the influence and establishment of a SL, including: its definition, the rise of activism and engagement, influences on opinion formation, and associated political dimensions. Next, it provides a review of previous SL models, the N&N model, and the theoretical basis for using CDA as the research method. This is the first trial of the model using such a methodology and the hydraulic fracturing controversy in New Brunswick. While several areas for additional research are uncovered, the results reveal the N&N model accomplishes the intended purpose. It provides a deeper understanding of the dominant discourses, the networks and actors influencing those discourses, emerging themes and strategies, the presence or absence of a SL, and the obstacles or facilitators used to constrain or support the capacity to conduct the activity. This research reinforces the importance for narratives to be present in the public sphere, but concludes by encouraging more research investigating the capacity to achieve SL if you are not part of the public sphere.