HUNTSVILLE - Tony Clement’s recent international forays have found him surrounded by elephants and donkeys.
The Parry Sound-Muskoka MP was part of two Canadian delegations that attended the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida in late August, and just last week, was rubbing shoulders with delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“I spent a couple of days at the Republican convention in Tampa and a couple of days here,” he said in a Sept. 6 interview from North Carolina where the Democrats met. “I am here representing Canada’s interests and both have been interesting experiences, as you can imagine.”
This is not the first time Clement has represented Canada at a U.S. political conference. He was at the Democratic convention four years ago in Denver when Barack Obama was named that party’s nominee for president.
He said it is important for Canada to have a presence at U.S. national conventions.
“Obviously we have a lot of bilateral interests with the Americans, whether it is about pipelines, or making sure our border crossings work well or whether it is generally keeping good relations with both Republicans and Democrats. It is about making sure that Canada’s interests are advanced and whenever you’ve got this collection of thousands of people who are politically aware and active, you can’t go wrong in sending a few politicians there. It’s really a Team Canada approach.”
He said that the feedback he received at both conventions was generally positive.
“Canada is well-liked, well-respected and people (at the conventions) are very interested in our economic situation. The fact we didn’t have any banks that failed and our growth rate is higher than the Americans, our job rate is much higher … all these things seem to be well known by the delegates I was meeting. It was very positive and they were very glad to see us here.”
The present Treasury Board president and FedNor minister, who was the top-ranking government official at the two conventions, said that Canada was but one of many countries who sent delegates to the two national conferences.
“I think it was important for the government to have one cabinet minister at these conventions. They are literally hundreds of international representatives at these things. They are doing exactly what we were doing on behalf of our country. So if you were absent, you would really be missing out. I have met senators, people from congress, governors … that will be helpful as we continue to advance our interest as a country.”
The MP was able to capture the speech by former U.S, president Bill Clinton, who media outlets have described as being in stellar form as he spoke at the Democratic convention.
“He always delivers … he is one of the most impressive politicians of the last 20th Century and into the 21st Century. It has always been a real interest of mine to see him live at it was very enjoyable to see.”
Clement said he was schedule to stay for Obama’s speech on Thursday night before heading home to attend events in the riding.
Aside from politics, Clement mentioned he wasn’t there for the infamous Clint Eastwood speech/interview with an empty chair, an event that has captured the world’s attention for its unusual premise.
“No I had to leave early,” he said with a laugh. “I had a cabinet meeting in Ottawa that day so I missed it. I saw it on television but did not have a chance to see it live, which would have been interesting.”