Hillary Rodham Clinton was in Calgary last week to give the keynote address at a breakfast meeting of 2500 Calgarians who paid about $500 to hear her speak. Luckily my friend, the Zen Banker, invited me to attend as her guest.
Hillary is like the Chloe Diamond—brilliant, mesmerizing, multifaceted and years in the making. Agree with her or not, it’s critical that Canadians understand how the woman who may become the 45th president of the United States views the world and our little part in it.
Here are the highlights:
Energy is the key: Energy is at the “intersection of economic prosperity, national security and diplomacy” and Canada and the US need to work together to utilize energy in a diplomatic way.
Energy can be used diplomatically in two ways. It can advance “strategic interests”. For example, US-led sanctions forced Iran to the negotiation table to discuss dismantling Iran’s nuclear program. Or it can be used to “intimidate”. In 2009 Gaz Prom shut off the natural gas supply to the Ukraine when a price dispute became political.
One can’t help but notice that characterizing the use of energy as “strategic” or “intimidation” depends on which country has its hand on the spigot.
The Ukraine: Hillary attributes Putin’s harsh reaction to the Ukraine to his desire to rebuild the “Soviet Empire”. Russia is reaching a turning point. Putin must choose between (1) working with the US, Canada and the EU and using Russia’s natural resources and educated work force to create a peaceful and profitable future or (2) pursuing his dream of the Soviet Empire and perpetuating the corruption that creates wealthy oligarchs and impoverishes the middle class.
Israel and Palestine: Hillary strongly supports the “two state solution” to resolve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. This is in Israel’s best interest because it recognizes the threat of demography (many Palestinians live in Israel) and the threat of technology (newer long range rockets that will pierce the “Iron Dome” over Israel). Nevertheless progress will be slow.
Climate Change/GHG: Hillary signalled very strong support for joint Canada/US efforts to reduce green house gases and tackle climate change and referred to the work the Clinton Foundation is doing with 40 of the world’s largest cities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
(The Clinton Foundation has a number of climate change initiatives including 1Sky which supports an 80% reduction in pollution levels by 2050).
Hillary said that 50% the US’s new energy capacity came from renewable energy. If this is true it would explain why the US is not convinced Canada is doing everything it can to exploit the oilsands in an environmentally responsible manner.
Keystone XL: Finally, the question we’ve all been waiting for. Moderator Frank McKenna delicately explained that the ongoing uncertainty over the future of Keystone XL is creating great angst in Canada. Hillary was unrepentant. The delay was warranted. Keystone XL crossed an international border. As such it fell to the State Department (which she led for four years) to review the pipeline and its impact on climate change.
Hillary really couldn’t comment because the decision rested with John Kerry, however she said it was important not to let that decision—whatever it may be—colour US/Canada cooperation on environmental matters. Hmmmm….
US Politics: Hillary acknowledged that the US government had become more dysfunctional, but reminded us that the US has always had a “rambunctious boisterous political system”. Well, I guess that’s one way to look at it.
Nevertheless, extreme voices were getting more attention and the refusal to compromise was rooted in the promotion of political, commercial and personal agendas. Citizens could break through this logjam by refusing to vote for “no compromise” candidates who undermine the basic principles of democracy.
The Presidency: Will she or won’t she? Not surprisingly Hillary dodged the question, simply saying that this was not the time for announcements. Her focus would be to help the country get its confidence back, to compromise on issues in order to move them forward and to make a contribution.
And with that she thanked us for our kind wishes and left the stage.
Who is Hillary?
Hillary Rodham Clinton is a perplexing personality. She cares about social issues like the environment and healthcare (remember her unsuccessful attempt to reform the US healthcare system in the first 100 days of her husband’s term).
At the same time she’s the consummate politician. She lost the presidential nomination to Obama…and then rose from the ashes as his secretary of state. She’s staying in the public eye by making speeches all over the globe (at $200,000 a pop).* She recently hired Obama’s chief electoral strategist and will embark on a book tour this summer to promote her new book about her experience as secretary of state.* Make no mistake; the presidential campaign is already underway.
She’s also funny. Frank McKenna ribbed her about the US hockey team losing to Canada because the Americans erected a billboard at the border saying “Loser gets Bieber”. Later he mentioned that Ted Cruz had been born in Calgary. She retorted that given the choice, she’d take Bieber.
Which got me thinking…given a choice between Alison Redford and Justin Bieber, I’d take Bieber, in a heart beat.
*The Globe and Mail, Mar 7, 2014, A11