UPDATE 2-Conservative loss wouldn’t kill pipeline -Enbridge

* Says Northern Gateway project too important for Canada

* Has letters of support from Western provinces

* Project seeks higher returns for Canadian oil producers
(Adds quotes, background)

By Jeffrey Jones

CALGARY, Alberta, March 31 (Reuters) – Enbridge Inc’s
(ENB.TO: Quote, Profile, Research) C$5.5 billion ($5.7 billion) oil pipeline to Canada’s
West Coast from Alberta would likely not be killed off if the
Conservatives lose the upcoming election, as its economic
importance is too great, its chief executive said on Thursday.

Enbridge CEO Pat Daniel said he believes the Northern
Gateway project is key to helping the country expand its energy
markets beyond the United States. The message comes amid fears
that opposition parties, if elected, would block increased
coastal tanker traffic and scupper the proposal.

“I think that this project is so important to security from
a movement of crude oil perspective that it won’t matter which
party’s in power,” he told reporters after a speech in Toronto.
“I think it’s too important for Canada.”

The pipeline would move 525,000 barrels a day of crude
derived from the Alberta oil sands to Kitimat, British
Columbia, where it could be loaded on to tankers bound for
markets in Asia and along the U.S. West Coast.

It already faces opposition from several native groups as
well as environmentalists.

Daniel pointed out his company, which moves most of
Canada’s oil exports to the United States, has letters of
support from the premiers of British Columbia and Alberta.

In December, the federal Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc
Quebecois all voted in favor of a motion calling for a ban on
oil tankers in waters off the coast of northwestern British
Columbia.

Although the motion was not binding on the minority
Conservative government, its backers said at the time it was
designed to demonstrate the amount of political opposition to
increased tanker traffic along the Pacific Coast.

The motion, in effect, would have formalized a nebulous
moratorium that has kept tankers out of the coastal waters
since the early 1970s, and would block the ships from loading
crude from the pipeline at the port in Kitimat.

Canadians go to the polls on May 2. Opinion surveys show
the Conservatives leading.

The pipeline is aimed at allowing Canadian oil to be priced
against more valuable world benchmark Brent crude, giving
producers a higher return than what they receive in North
America.

Meanwhile, Asian energy markets are growing at a much
quicker clip than those in the United States, Daniel said in
his speech to the Empire Club.

“Our unparalleled integration with the U.S. market is also
a problem: it makes us complacent, and it makes us a captive
supplier,” he said. “When you have one customer, by definition
you are a price taker, not a price setter.”

U.S. President Barack Obama said on Wednesday that he will
strive to cut oil imports by one-third over the next decade,
although analysts said Canada is not likely the target of such
a move.

“It’s certainly a positive in terms of Canadian crude oil
moving to the U.S., but it’s also a flag for Canadians that we
don’t want that to be our only market,” Daniel said.

($1=$0.97 Canadian)
(Additional reporting by Cameron French in Toronto and Allan
Dowd in Vancouver; editing by Rob Wilson)

UPDATE 2-Conservative loss wouldn’t kill pipeline -Enbridge