It may not be as dramatic as “Mr. Smith goes to Washington,” but Hillary Clinton’s conference at the Montreal Board of Trade Leadership Series on Tuesday had all the trappings of someone on the move towards the big prize in Washington. Unlike Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Nicholas Sarkozy, Tony Blair, and Rudy Giuliani, who participated in the Series after their active political careers, Mrs. Clinton was seen as a “leader with a future.” Will she or will she not run in 2016?
The event attracted over 4,000 patrons as well as the three major Québec political party leaders, who interrupted their election campaign to listen to Secretary Clinton, whom most of the attendees hoped will be the next President of the U.S.A. She won over the room with her presence, garnering a standing ovation before she even spoke. The conference was composed of an address given by Mrs. Clinton followed by a question and answer session.
In her speech, she spoke about women’s issues and the impact of integrating women into the economy, illustrating how studies show a marked increase in a country’s GDP if women are fully integrated and become active economic participants. It is clear that her work in philanthropy will continue to be focused on helping women in all spheres of human activity. Needless to say, her message was well received by the audience.
During the Q and A session two women, Mrs. Clinton, and the CEO of GazMétro, Sophie Brochu, spoke at length about economic issues, covering topics such as paid maternity leave in the U.S., relations between Canada and the U.S., the crisis in Ukraine, and civic engagement. The discussion was undoubtedly inspiring for many in the room.
While there were no real news breaking declarations, Mrs. Clinton did stress three areas of concern outside of women’s issues–greater Canada-U.S. cooperation on energy, the growing importance of the Arctic region, and the potential threat of Putin’s actions in Crimea for the region.
Mrs. Clinton did not touch on the Keystone pipeline project when discussing Canada–U.S. relations; however, she clearly stated that energy issues along with environmental concerns must be addressed by governments on both sides in ways that build trust, solidarity and economic growth. This observation can be interpreted as lukewarm on the Keystone Pipeline approval, which may not be encouraging to the Canadian government.
Regarding the Arctic, she raised the importance of resource exploration and the obvious increase in economic activity spurred by a larger number of commerce routes. Clearly, the issues of climate change and Russia’s intentions were part of her thinking as she stressed prioritizing the region.
On Ukraine and Crimea, Mrs. Clinton was understandably prudent, addressing continuity, long term planning, and condemning Putin’s disregard for international law. She referred to President Clinton’s NATO initiative after the breakdown of the Soviet Union in 1990’s as a positive move, and endorsed the current Obama-Kerry approach in the region. There was no reference to a new Cold War, but it was clear from her comments on Putin’s activism that short term actions, along with long-term strategic thinking in supporting Ukraine’s economy and reducing European economic dependence on Russia were required for effective policy making, not dissimilar to the Cold War policy.
Finally, on the question of whether she would run for the presidency in 2016, she was coy as usual. Most polls and political observers indicate that she will have no real competition for the Democratic nomination, but American politics is not known to favor a coronation. If anyone is conscious of this, it is Hillary Clinton and this explains the suspense. However, by the end of the evening, there was a general consensus by all present that she would eventually announce her candidacy.