Clinton talks democratic values, extremism in Winnipeg

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

There is more to be done to "widen the circle of opportunity" for Americans, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday during an appearance in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Her message echoed that of President Obama in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, in which the president called on Congress to work with him to expand programs that will boost the middle class.

Clinton, who is widely expected to become the front runner in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, called the president's proposals "an important start for a critical debate" and expressed confidence that Republicans can work with many of his ideas. Mentioning a report on wealth released this week by Oxfam, Clinton emphasized that the U.S. has a unique responsibility to lead the way in reversing inequality and promoting human rights.

"The future is ours if we come together, live our values, and understand that we have to export those values," Clinton said. "We have to give others the chance to make the same choices that generations of Canadians and Americans already have."

Clinton's remarks, her first of the year and the first of two back-to-back appearances in Canada, was part of a series called "Global Perspectives," sponsored by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. The luncheon event, with individual tickets priced at around $250, drew nearly 2,000 attendees. A handful of tickets remained Wednesday morning.

Her remarks and the question-and-answer session that followed covered a wide range of topics, including foreign and domestic policy issues and her granddaughter, Charlotte. She spoke passionately against rising extremism in the Middle East, carefully recounting recent attacks in France, Nigeria, Pakistan and Canada.

"With these vicious few, we are confronting an ideology of hate. A worldview based on tearing down and dividing rather than building up and bringing together," she said. "This is a generational challenge and it must be waged on many fronts."

Clinton also seconded the president's rejection of further U.S. sanctions against Iran during negotiations over its nuclear policy, saying, "If we're the reason--through our Congress--that in effect gives Iran and others the excuse not to continue the negotiations, that would be, in my view, a very serious strategic error."

She again declined to comment on the Keystone XL pipeline, a controversial proposal to connect the tar sands of Alberta to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. The House passed a bill to advance the project earlier this month, and the Senate is also expected to approve it soon. Proponents of the pipeline, including Canadian government and industry leaders, say it will create thousands of jobs.

"You won't get me to talk about Keystone," Clinton said when asked about ways to strengthen the relationship between the U.S. and Canada. "This is in our process, and that's where it belongs. "

Clinton's speaking engagements like this one have drawn attention because of the high fees she commands. Her twin speeches Wednesday, in particular, have been criticized because CIBC has reportedly been the subject of federal fraud investigations. And while Clinton has said that the cash collected goes to her foundation, some have still used Clinton's lucrative speaking tour to tie her to the wealthy elite.

Organizers did not respond to a request for information about whether Clinton was paid to speak in Winnipeg and, later Wednesday, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

That characterization goes against the message that many considering a run for president - Democrats and Republicans alike - have tried to send. Though she was not asked directly about 2016 during her appearance in Winnipeg, Clinton is expected to make a decision about a run in the spring.