06/17/2014 07:41 EDT | Updated 06/18/2014 11:59 EDT

Harper Accused Of 'Hiding' After Northern Gateway Pipeline Decision

In the end, one of the biggest decisions of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's career was marked with little more than a press release.

And, this time, the words "Harper government" were nowhere to be found.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Conservative government announced its conditional approval for Enbridge Inc.'s controversial $7-billion Northern Gateway pipeline project between the Alberta oilsands and the B.C. coast.

In a statement from Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford, the government announced the decision was contingent on Enbridge satisfying 209 conditions set out by a federal review panel and embarking on more consultations with affected aboriginal communities.

The project faces intense opposition from environmentalists, First Nations groups and British Columbians who fear it poses a risk to the B.C. coast.

But neither Harper nor any of his ministers held a press conference Tuesday to address those concerns, leaving his top rivals to accuse Tories of trying to duck controversy.

Opposition Leader Thomas Mulcair wondered, while standing with all 12 of his NDP MPs from British Columbia, if the prime minister believes he is living in a different decade.

"Stephen Harper seems to continue to believe that it's 1948," Mulcair said. "You cannot force things from the top down."

Mulcair, who opposes the pipeline, called the idea of tankers carrying oil in the Douglas Channel "pure madness." He said the decision will be a ballot box issue in 2015.

"More than 20 Conservative MPs are hiding under their desks right now," he said, referring to the party's B.C. caucus.

The NDP leader called out Industry Minister James Moore, a B.C. native, and, on more than one occasion, accused Harper of "hiding" as well.

Mulcair told reporters an NDP government would set the project "aside" and review environmental legislation. He warned the approval was a "severe threat to social order and social peace."

B.C. NDP Nathan Cullen also couldn't help but notice that no Tories were stepping up to explain the call.

"This is an arrogant, Ottawa-based Conservative decision," Cullen said.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said the project threatens the jobs of thousands of British Columbians who work on the Pacific Ocean and vowed to stop it if elected next year.

"If I am given the honour of serving as prime minister, the Northern Gateway pipeline will not happen," he said.

Trudeau said the prime minister has been a cheerleader for the Northern Gateway pipeline at a time when Canadians needed a referee.

He said British Columbians worried about the news should work to make sure Harper is not the prime minister after the next election.

"I couldn't help but notice for all that it is the Harper government announcing all sorts of things, today it was 'the government of Canada' and not the 'Harper government,'" Trudeau said.

"I'm not surprised Harper is hiding."

Some Conservative MPs from B.C. did respond on Twitter to questions about the decision.

With files from The Canadian Press

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