Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver says the Canadian government welcomes the support from top business leaders who have written to U.S. President Barack Obama, urging him to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

"We are pleased to see U.S. business leaders stand up for Keystone XL, an important project that will create jobs and contribute to energy security on both sides of the border," Oliver told CBC News in a written statement on Friday.

More than 165 top business leaders wrote to the president on Thursday and urged him to approve the pipeline, citing the benefits of the project to the U.S. economy.

"Whether economic growth will remain modest or pick up speed will depend on maintaining investor confidence and strengthening America’s competitiveness. The decision on Keystone XL will affect both," the business leaders said.

"Approving this investment will send a powerful signal of this administration’s commitment to getting America back to work."

The proposed pipeline would carry Alberta oilsands crude to the Texas Gulf Coast for refining and export, but has not yet been approved by the Obama administration. Obama has not said when he will make a decision but has publicly questioned the economic benefits of the project.

TransCanada president and CEO Russ Girling, in a written statement on Thursday, said he agreed with the U.S. business leaders who said the pipeline would benefit the U.S. economy.

Girling pointed the U.S. State Department's own draft supplemental environmental impact statement on Keystone XL released last spring that showed the project would support the creation of over 40,000 jobs in the U.S.

The business leaders also told Obama the Keystone XL pipeline will meet nearly 60 special conditions set by regulators to minimize risks, which would ultimately render the net environmental impact of the pipeline "minimal."

U.S. government shutdown

Oliver told CBC News "the choice for America is clear: A secure, environmentally responsible friend and neighbour, or less reliable sources with less stringent environmental rules but with the same or higher greenhouse gas emissions," 

On Friday, Oliver would not comment on the possible impact the current U.S. government shutdown, which is in its 11th day, might have on the Keystone XL pipeline approval process.

Instead, he touted the merits of the project following a meeting with Toshimitsu Motegi, Japan’s minister of economy, trade and industry, in Vancouver on Friday.

"If the relevant facts are taken into consideration, the project will be approved on its merits," Oliver said.

Environmental activist David Suzuki was in Washington, D.C., on Friday where he told Americans that Harper can't be trusted when it comes to climate change.

Suzuki was among a group of Canadians who made the trip to the U.S. capital to urge Obama to reject TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

Business leaders told Obama that the environmental risks associated with the oil pipeline "must and can be managed." 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper told a crowd of business leaders in New York two weeks ago that he will not take no for answer.

In his strongest statement on the proposed cross-border pipeline, Harper said "we haven't had that but if we were to get that, that won't be final. This won't be final until it's approved and we will keep pushing forward."

The prime minister touted the economic and environmental benefits of the Keystone XL pipeline to both countries, saying "the logic behind this project is simply overwhelming."

Opposition parties denounced Harper's comments, saying they would hurt already strained Canada-U.S. relations.