A group of politicians and business leaders is urging Ottawa to approve Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project.

Forty people, including the premier of Alberta and several former federal cabinet ministers, signed an open letter that appeared in national newspapers on Thursday.

Titled “Northern Gateway: A Project for Canada,” the letter calls the proposed pipeline one "that’s right for our time.”

“Canada stands on the edge of an unprecedented opportunity — one that promises to strengthen our entire nation,” the letter says.

Calgary-based Enbridge’s proposal has faced opposition in B.C. from environmentalists and aboriginal groups.

The letter’s signatories argue the $6.5-billion pipeline — which would move oilsands bitumen from Edmonton to Kitimat, B.C., to be shipped to Asia — can be built without significant risk to the environment.

The project has the potential to improve the lives of First Nations communities, while achieving important economic development for the country, the letter says.

“It is critical that Canada open up new markets so that taxpayers get full value for our energy resources.”

A joint review panel of the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency recommended approval of the project six months ago, subject to 209 conditions.

The federal cabinet has to make its decision about the pipeline by June 17.