Tony Blair speaks in Canada

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Tony Blair

Tony Blair, United Kingdom's former Prime Minister, made his first public appearance since stepping down as PM yesterday at a speech entitled Global Relations: A Conversation with Tony Blair to an audience of about 2,400 in Calgary, Alberta from noon to 2:30 p.m. in the Telus Convention Centre, sponsored by Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD Canada Trust).

Lunch was served with an authentic Alberta beef steak. Alberta premier Ed Stelmach, Calgary mayor Dave Bronconnier, and other public officials were there. "Congratulations on winning a third term. As a three-term prime minister I can tell you that's when things get rough," Blair told Bronconnier.

During the speech he talked about Canada on the world stage, the controversial military role in Afghanistan, defending the country in war-devastated places, as well as other large issues facing Canada.

Blair said it's not about being on the left or right side of politics, it's about being open or closed.

"If we want to win, we can't just be for democracy and freedom. We have to be for justice and fairness," Blair said to the audience that paid CA$400 to attend the event. "It's a battle of ideas."

"If we're going to fight this terrorism off, we're going to have to show them we're as tough as they are ... and stay the course." Blair said even though it'll be a long-road in the war it's important to not give up the fight against "the forces of extremism."

Blair is an Envoy in the Quartet on the Middle East, which is involved in mediating the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He become Envoy the same day he stepped down as PM.

"This morning I looked at your local papers and saw 'Premier Under Fire'. And I thought, 'Oh God, why, what have I done now?' before realising that I wasn't PM anymore. I'm still adjusting."

He also commented about Alberta's oil and gas royalty dispute saying, "I'm just glad it's not my decision," and after three terms of being PM he's "learned when to keep my mouth shut." Alberta has the second largest oil reserves in the world and Abu Dhabi National Energy Co. recently made their third offer for $5-billion to buy Alberta-based company Prime West Energy Trust. In relation to that, Blair said, "Calgary is not only the new centre of Canada or North America, but a global centre for the world."

"I often say to people, Canada will become one of the most powerful nations in the world." He also pointed out, "As power grows... so does more responsibility. What you need to do is carry with it your optimistic spirit. You're a country that can easily play as large a role as anyone else."

"Optimism is something you get very easily when you come to Canada," he said relating to Canada's strong alliances with other countries. He said Canada has a "can-do" attitude.

After, he sat down with former premier of New Brunswick Frank McKenna, now TD Bank's deputy chairman, in green armchairs, part of TD's advertising campaign, and had a Q&A period.

Journalists were not allowed to use cameras or recording devices during the event as ordered by Scotland Yard, the Globe and Mail reports, who were told by event organisers.

Blair also praised Canada's wine, "This is a secret you've just got to get out."