Members of the National Energy Board's Joint Review Panel may have left town for a week, but organizers of a protest set for the Civic Centre on Wednesday hope their message gets through loud and clear.
The Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance, working with other like-minded groups, is holding a rally against the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline as part of a province-wide day of action under the "Defend Our Coast" banner.
"What want to do is have everyone there lock their arms at the elbow, to demonstrate the solid line of defence against these developments with a big sign that says defend our coast," local organizer Richard DeMontigny said.
Defend Our Coast held a rally in Victoria on Monday, with thousands of pipeline opponents voicing their concerns with a sit-in at the legislature.
Calgary-based Enbridge intends to build a $6.5 billion pipeline to carry crude oil from Alberta to Kitimat and is currently undergoing a federal government environmental assessment. The panel tasked with the conducting the review will return to Prince George on Monday for two more weeks of public hearings.
The rally is coming at a good time, according to DeMontigny, because the last two weeks of hearings have brought the issue to the front of people's minds.
DeMontigny said a few dozen people have confirmed they will attend the rally, set for 5 p.m., but he's holding out hope a few hundred will make it down. A few short speeches are planned and there will be some drumming and songs, but the main purpose of the rally is to show how much support there is against the project in the community.
"The biggest reason for the event is to put pressure on our own provincial MLAs to stand up to defend the coast, to do this across the province is important because it gets more people motivated in locations where we might not hear from very much," he said.
Environmental groups are opposed the idea of the pipeline because of the risk of a spill of diluted bitumen and they challenged Enbridge on the chances of a rupture and the methods that could be used to clean it up during the hearings over the last two weeks.
From his perspective, DeMontigny said the hearings showed the company's application is "undeveloped" and he's more and more optimistic that the project will not go ahead.
"I'm starting to feel there's a good possibility this pipeline won't go through," he said. "There's a majority of British Columbians that are voicing their voices against it and there are more voices through the media also that are expressing concerns."
DeMontigny is personally against the pipeline because he said it's the wrong way for the company to go environmentally, economically and socially. He'd rather see the government focus on ways to reduce the population's dependance on oil products.
Pipeline opponents expect rallies in 60 communities around the province, including Fort St. James, where an event is set for noon Wednesday at Spirit Square.