As the environmental review of the proposed Northern Gateway project winds its way through the regulatory process, a local environmental group wants to keep the issue top of mind.
The Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance is planning to host a film festival in Prince George and will quiz local candidates on their position on the mega project as the spring provincial election approaches. The group opposes the proposal by Calgary-based Enbridge to build a heavy oil pipeline from northern Alberta to Kitimat.
With no more formal National Energy Board hearings set for Prince George, Sea to Sands spokeswoman Sonja Ostertag said it's easy for the issue to drop of people's radar screens.
"We wanted to host a film festival in the winter just to keep people thinking about the Enbridge project and to get excited about protecting the watersheds that are at risk from this pipeline project," Ostertag said.
No date has been set, but four films from the Skeena Wild Film Festival will be shown in Prince George over the coming months. The festival includes two feature length films and two short films, all based around the Skeena watershed.
With the provincial election set for May 14, Ostertag said Sea to Sands will survey local candidates on the pipeline issue and distribute their findings to the 1,200 group members.
"We're not a partisan group, but we also recognize that we need to be engaged in the political process," she said.
With the Liberals picking up more than 50 per cent of the vote in Prince George-Mackenzie, Prince Geogre-Valemount and Nechako Lakes last election, Ostertag isn't sure how much the Northern Gateway issue will impact the final results, but she still thinks it's important to get the word out.
"I'm not sure that the Enbridge issue will make or break, or change the outcome, but I do think people are very concerned about the project," she said.
The National Energy Board has been in Victoria and Vancouver this month hearing public statements about the pipeline proposal. Similar sessions were held in Prince George in July, with Sea to Sands taking an active role.
Ostertag said her group is "surprised and disappointed" the general public has been excluded from the meetings in the province's two biggest cities after having been allowed to observe the hearings in the north with no disruptions.
The Joint Review Panel decided that due to the risk of civil disobedience, the Vancouver and Victoria sessions would be held behind closed doors with a public viewing area located off site.
"It's very clear that there's certain rules to the process," Ostertag said. "For the people from Prince George who went to the hearings, we attended the hearings understanding what the rules of participation were and we respected those rules."
The public will be allowed back in when the cross-examination phase resumes next month in Prince Rupert.