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Canada Sarah Palin sees eye-to-eye with Albertans in Calgary speech

Sarah Palin speaks during the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, Tenn., on Feb. 6, 2010.

JOSH ANDERSON

Sarah Palin drew a straight line from Alaska to Alberta as she told a sold-out, largely adoring crowd in Calgary that the province gets her message of less government, lower taxes and development of natural resources.

In what was billed as her first Canadian appearance since stepping down as governor of Alaska last summer, Ms. Palin's trademark folksy charm was on full display Saturday night.

She joked that her distinctive accent means she's often mistaken for Canadian and that she has two great-grandfathers from Canada, including one from Moose Jaw, Sask.

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"That must be where my love of moose came from," she said to laughter and applause.

Ms. Palin, who shot to national prominence after being chosen as running mate for U.S. Republican Senator John McCain in the 2008 presidential campaign, also mentioned the Olympics, suggesting that the bobsleigh is all in a day's commute in Alaska.

She paid tribute to Canada's men's hockey win, noting that the U.S. men's silver is nothing to sneeze at.

"Second place isn't that bad. I've been there."

Ms. Palin grew serious when the talk turned to politics, thanking Calgary-based company TransCanada Corp. for its bid to build a pipeline to connect Alaska to Alberta.

She noted the areas have several things in common: good hunting, good fishing and a commitment to developing energy resources.

"We understand how important it is to do responsibly."

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She touched on climate change, saying that her skepticism has been vindicated by several recent controversies, and that money shouldn't be spent on "pie-in-the-sky, snake-oil ideas."

The vocal opponent of health-care reform in the U.S. steered largely clear of the topic except to reveal a tidbit about her life growing up not far from Whitehorse.

"We used to hustle over the border for health care we received in Canada," she said. "And I think now, isn't that ironic?"

Many in attendance said seeing Ms. Palin was like catching a glimpse of a celebrity.

Stephanie Hansen, 18, who wore a pin with Ms. Palin's face, could barely contain her excitement. She gushed that she felt out of place among the much older audience.

"I love it, I'm really glad that I came. It was really enlightening."

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She admitted she didn't know a lot about Ms. Palin's politics, but she said she loves her nonetheless.

"I admire how she can have a family and still be able to work as much as she does and everything she does."

A number of Alberta politicians were also in attendance.

Danielle Smith, leader of the right-of-centre Wildrose Alliance Party, faced comparisons with Ms. Palin as she ran for the party's leadership last year. Ms. Smith said she was greeted by a steady stream of supporters after Ms. Palin's speech.

"It was great. I think the themes she was talking about resonate just as much with Albertans as they are with average Americans," she said.

"Free enterprise, the respect for individuals, the fact that we need limited government, these are all the things people are asking for."

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Since her failed bid for the White House, Ms. Palin has spent her time rebuilding her brand in the United States with increasing visibility on the national stage.

She has become a regular paid commentator for Fox News and gave a high-profile address at the first national convention of the "tea party" coalition last month. The anti-establishment, grass-roots network is formed on a premise of anger over the growth of government and U.S. President Barack Obama's policies.

She denied any kind of leadership ambitions for the movement, saying that she's told organizers that politicians will always let them down while ideals remain true.

"It's a beautiful movement, it's a conservative movement that's sweeping our nation," she said.

Ms. Palin gained a fair amount of notoriety for that speech, being widely mocked for writing crib notes such as "Energy. Tax. Lifting American spirits" on her hand and consulting them during one question and answer session.

She was asked by Senator Pamela Wallin to show her palms after the speech and referenced a passage in the bible that says people's names are engraved on God's hands, saying "if it was good enough for God, it's good enough for me."

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In addition to her political speeches and work for Fox News, Ms. Palin appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno last week - and is apparently shopping around a reality show that would showcase her home state of Alaska.

She's repeatedly refused to confirm whether she would consider a run for the presidency in 2012 and remained coy when asked the question Saturday.

"Don't know what I'm going to do in 2012," she said, adding that no matter what happens, she'll be supporting candidates who embrace her message of a "common sense" approach to government.

Polls seem to suggest Ms. Palin doesn't pose much of a threat as a potential presidential candidate.

A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll suggested that only 37 per cent of Americans had a favourable impression of Ms. Palin; of those who identified themselves as conservatives, fewer than half said she was qualified to serve as president.

Tickets for the Calgary event ranged from about $150 to $200. About half of the 1,200 people in attendance gave Ms. Palin a standing ovation.

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