With little more than a week to go before hearings into the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline begin in Prince Rupert, B.C., proponents of the project squared off on Saturday with First Nations and local residents who oppose the plan.

Hundreds of residents staged a "No oil tankers" rally in a Prince Rupert park before winding their way to a nearby civic centre where First Nations leaders spoke.

Hundreds protested the $5.5 billion Northern Gateway pipeline project proposed by Enbridge Inc. The pipeline would flow unrefined Alberta oil to B.C.'s coast before it is shipped to Asian markets.

And that is something that worries both environmentalists and economists.

"Nobody has looked to ask what does that mean to Canadian consumers?" said economist Robyn Allen.

Allen, who authored a report on the effects of the pipeline and estimates that the project would hike the price of Canadian oil by two to three dollars, suggests the environmental impact of the project should also be studied.

The anti-pipeline protesters also got a boost from a local celebrity, when singer Biff Naked joined in to voice her opposition to the project.

"I think it's important to protect the area and to protect the interest of the people who live here," she said.

But John Winter, a spokesman for the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, is confident that the plan will be successful.

"It has problems no doubt about it, but I'm confident that they can overcome those problems," he told CTV News.

The protest came just days after National Energy Board hearings concluded in Edmonton.

CTV News contacted Enbridge, but said company executives would prefer to wait to address the panel in September.

With a report by CTV's Vancouver Bureau Chief Sarah Galashan