The federal government has approved Enbridge’s contentious Northern Gateway pipeline project, contingent on the same 209 conditions recommended by the Joint Review Panel.

Enbridge must still demonstrate how it will meet the conditions before the $6.5-billion pipeline can move forward, Natural Resource Minister Greg Rickford said after the decision was announced Tuesday.

“Today constitutes another step in the process,” Rickford said in a statement. “The proponent clearly has more work to do in order to fulfill the public commitment it has made to engage with Aboriginal groups and local communities along the route.”

Among the National Energy Board panel’s conditions are that Enbridge study heavy oil spill cleanup, prepare a marine mammal protection plan, and hire at least 15 per cent Aboriginal workers.

Related: Read all 209 of the NEB’s conditions

The approval was anticipated by critics in B.C., who are set to rally by the hundreds in downtown Vancouver under the banner “The Answer is Still No” late Tuesday afternoon.

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs also pledged to launch a court challenge against the approval, asserting that the “legal authority over [its] respective territories have never been surrendered.”

The Gitxaala and Coastal First Nations have previously threatened lawsuits over the project.

The federal NDP, Liberal and Green parties all denounced the Conservative government’s approval and promised to kill Enbridge’s pipeline if elected into power next year.

“If I win the honour of serving of Prime Minister, The Northern Gateway will not happen,” Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau told reports on Parliament Hill.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair called the idea of sending oil tankers through B.C.’s narrow Douglas Channel “pure madness,” and predicted the pipeline will be a major ballot box issue in the 2015 election.

“The more than 20 conservative MPs in British Columbia are hiding under their desks right now,” Mulcair said. “It’s already angered B.C. voters. It could compromise the economy of the whole province.”

Virtually all municipalities along the pipeline route, including Kitimat, Terrace, Prince Rupert and Smithers, are opposed to the pipeline, as are more than 130 First Nations across B.C., Mulcair said.

Apart from proving Enbridge can meet the 209 NEB conditions, the energy delivery company must also still apply for regulatory permits and authorizations from the federal and provincial governments, the Ministry of Natural Resources said.

'We will stop this project'

Minster Rickford lauded the NEB review as a rigorous, science-based undertaking with feedback from more than 1,450 participants from 21 communities, as well as 9,000 letters of comment.

Federal Green Leader Elizabeth May disagreed with that characterization, describing the final report as “so bad it’s almost satire.”

“It gets treated as though it’s an actual study. It’s a public relations document in favour of Enbridge,” said May, who represents the B.C. riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands.

May warned the pipeline would cause permanent damage to the province’s economy and environment.

“We will stop this project one way or another, as British Columbians.”

Northern Gateway was designed to carry bitumen from Alberta to the coast at Kitimat through 1,177 kilometres of pipeline. Once it reaches the west coast, the bitumen will be shipped overseas.

The B.C. government previously laid out its own five conditions for the pipeline, including world-class responses for both land and marine oil spills. Mary Polak, the province’s environment minister, said Tuesday’s announcement represented the meeting of just one condition: the achievement of federal certification.

“There is still much work to be done if a Northern Gateway pipeline is ever to be built in British Columbia,” Polak told reporters in Vancouver.

Other conditions include that Northern Gateway meet aboriginal treaty rights and that B.C. receive a bigger share of the economic benefits.

“We need to see British Columbia getting its fair share because we are taking on so much of the risk,” Polak said.

Janet Holder, Enbridge's vice-president for western access, said the company believes it can meet the Northern Gateway conditions.