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Keystone XL decision shouldn't be symbol of Cda-US relations: Hillary Clinton

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TORONTO - Washington's long-awaited decision to approve or reject the Keystone XL pipeline should not become a symbol of the relationship between the United States and Canada, former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton said Monday.

Speaking before a business crowd of roughly 1,800 in Toronto, Clinton said the controversial project — designed to move Alberta crude oil to the Gulf Coast — has become "a proxy for everything" as proponents and critics lock horns over its fate.

"However this Keystone decision is finally made, some people are going to be very happy, relieved and think it was the right decision and some people are going to be distraught and even angry and upset, thinking it was a terrible decision," she said.

"I do not see it, though, nor should it be a proxy for the relationship. It is, after all, one pipeline. We already have a lot of pipelines that cross our border."

The U.S. decision on the pipeline has been stalled while the Obama administration drops hints that Canada must do more on the environment.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said earlier this month that Canada wants to deal with climate change without crippling its economy.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Joe Oliver has said the U.S. administration's indefinite delay of the Keystone project hurts employment on both sides of the border.

The TransCanada Corp. (TSX:TRP) project should be part of a wider discussion on energy and the environment, Clinton said.

"I do believe that both Canada and the United States can become even richer, more prosperous but also more environmentally sustainable by having a broad engagement over energy and climate, and not focusing everything on this one decision."

The former first lady was in Toronto to discuss her new memoir, "Hard Choices."

Many observers were hoping she might drop a few hints on whether she plans to run in the next U.S. presidential election, but she would only say she hopes to one day see a woman in the White House.

Asked what the male equivalent of the first lady title would be, Clinton joked that some had suggested "first man" or "first mate."

"I hope someday our country has the chance to figure that out," she said, setting off a wave of applause.

She also gave a nod to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who last week became the first woman and the first openly gay person elected to the post.

"From what I know about Premier Wynne's recent election, it was a very positive, agenda-driven campaign on her part," Clinton said. "What she was able to convince people of is... 'We've got difficult days ahead but we can do this.'"

Clinton said that's what needs to be renewed in her country.

"Right now, we're in a very difficult political period where people are talking about issues without listening to each other and they are very quick to point fingers and claim they will never compromise," she said.

"It's encouraging to see campaigns like the one you just had here in Ontario, where that was really what the issues were: how are we going to solve problems together again? And that is way overdue in many parts of our country," she said.

Clinton has insisted she hasn't decided on a second bid for the presidency but over the course of her book tour so far she has made it clear she is giving it serious consideration.

Clinton has said she finds the prospect of running compelling simply because it offers the chance to help Americans find economic opportunities that elude them.

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