FREDERICTON - Debate over shale gas development and efforts to curb government spending have dominated the fall session of the New Brunswick legislature.

The four-week session saw protests and petitions tabled with the names of thousands of people who are opposed to shale gas exploration in the province.

Liberal Leader Victor Boudreau accused the government of failing to listen to New Brunswickers on the issue as the Conservatives promised stronger regulations after two exploration companies conducted seismic testing without proper permission.

"When you look at an issue that is so important, and that affects so many people, this government has kept its blinders on the whole time and is going full steam ahead and doesn't want to talk about a moratorium, and doesn't want to even talk about enforcement," Boudreau said Wednesday before the session was scheduled to come to an end.

The government also released a capital budget that limits new spending to just $24 million as it looks for ways to cope with a projected deficit of nearly $546 million this year and a debt topping $10 billion.

Government house leader Paul Robichaud said the most important piece of legislation passed this fall will see the number of provincial ridings and legislative members reduced from 55 to 49 in time for the next election in 2014.

The government faced controversy during the session. Backbencher Jake Stewart apologized after the Liberals produced a number of emails that he sent to officials in the Department of Transportation.

In one of them, Stewart tells the department he wanted all gravel work in the Upper Miramichi region to go to a single gravel pit, while in another he complains about people being considered for a job with the department in Renous.

Stewart also sent an email requesting a camp road be plowed for a child's birthday party.

The legislature is scheduled to resume March 27 when Finance Minister Blaine Higgs brings in the province's 2012-13 budget.