Maude Barlow believes the fight against the Northern Gateway pipeline is in the closing stages, but the national chairwoman of the Council of Canadians isn't about to back down.
"Yes I think we've won or will win the Gateway, but we're not letting up - believe me," Barlow said in a phone interview from Fort McMurray, Alta. "Stopping one [pipeline] is good, stopping them all is better."
Calgary-based Enbridge has run into stiff opposition for its plans to build a pipeline that will connect Alberta's oilsands with the port of Kitimat. The project is in the environmental assessment stage, with hearings set to resume in Prince George on Monday.
Environmental groups are concerned about the chances of a spill, both over land or from one of the tankers shipping the oil to Asia, and have fought the project tooth and nail. Barlow believes public opinion has galvanized against the pipeline to such a degree that the $6.5 billion project will never go ahead.
"We're finding that people in British Columbia are incredibly interested and incredibly knowledgeable about this issue," she said. "The polls show the majority of people in British Columbia do not want the pipeline carrying tarsands bitumen."
Barlow has just embarked on a speaking tour of B.C. and northern Alberta. She'll be in Prince George on Oct. 30 to deliver her message that all pipelines out of the oil sands must be stopped. She said it's important for environmental groups to keep the momentum going if Northern Gateway is eventually blocked.
"The concern is if put all our eggs into the Gateway struggle and we win it - which I think we will and maybe already have - then [industry] will just turn to the twinning of the Kinder Morgan," she said, adding that the group will also fight against the Keystone XL pipeline to the United States as well as any new oil or gas pipelines from Alberta to eastern Canada.
The goal for the Council of Canadians is not just to stop the pipelines, but to slow or stop development of the Alberta oil sands. Barlow said more environmentally friendly energy options should be developed instead.
Citizens' Environmental Advocacy Group director Bruce Edson said his group felt it was important to have Barlow speak in Prince George so that the debate around Northern Gateway could be broadened to include other proposed pipelines.
"We want to support her tour because she's adding a respected perspective to it," he said.
The Prince George event will also feature Sven Biggs and law student Caleb Behn.
If construction of Northern Gateway or other pipelines does commence in the coming years, Barlow expects a "huge showdown" between industry and pipeline opponents which could take the form of court action, pressure on municipal councils and even civil disobedience.
"I think you're going to see people standing up and be prepared to put themselves on the line in front of bulldozers, in front of tankers," she said. "We're going to see a really, really passionate fight."
Doors open at the No Pipelines, No Tankers event in Prince George at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 30, with Barlow and the other speakers taking the stage at the Canfor Theatre at UNBC beginning at 7 p.m.
"We're hoping to fill Canfor Theatre," Edson said. "Maude Barlow is an incredible speaker and she's had a multi-decade history of really relevant and respected activism."