Canada’s new finance minister – can she fix it?

Canada's new finance minister – can she fix it?

Prime Minister Trudeau lost his finance minister after a scandal. Now, with Chrystia Freeland, he relies on a former journalist.

“It was high time we broke through this glass ceiling,” said Chrystia Freeland when asked by a reporter how it feels to be the first woman in this post.

Chrystia Freeland has been in the cabinet of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a year, before that she was Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, now she is Minister of Finance. Should Trudeau ever stumble across one of his notorious scandals, she would be ready to take over.

That is not ruled out: Because of a controversial multi-million-dollar contract from his government to a non-profit organization close to the Trudeau family, the polls for his Liberal Party had recently fallen sharply. Parliament’s ethics officer is investigating corruption and the opposition is demanding his resignation. Freeland’s predecessor as Treasury Secretary, Bill Morneau, was also involved in the affair and had resigned Monday over differences with Trudeau.

Now Freeland should fix it and get the coals out of the fire for her ailing boss. Seems confident. “I don’t know anyone who would be better suited to be Treasury Secretary than she,” said Trudeau.

Freeland is a trained business journalist and has long written for renowned media such as the Financial Times, Reuters, the Economist and the Washington Post. In her book “The Super Rich” she advocates more state controls on corporations and banks. At one of her public readings she met her future boss Trudeau, who persuaded her to get into politics. The mother of three has represented a constituency in Toronto since 2013.

As Minister of Commerce in 2015, Freeland was responsible for the negotiations with the EU on the controversial Ceta free trade agreement. Later as Secretary of State, the former Harvard and Rhodes scholar negotiated the revision of the free trade agreement with the US and Mexico. If you believe the US media, Freeland and US President Donald Trump were pretty chilly.

As vice head of government, she was responsible for closing the border with the United States during the corona crisis. She coordinated various corona aid programs of the government in the social and health sector. The economic consequences of the pandemic will keep Freeland in suspense: Millions of Canadians have lost their jobs, this year a historic deficit of 340 billion dollars is expected. In contrast to its predecessor, Freeland advocates further government spending programs to cushion the crisis, including in the environmental and climate sectors.

Since Trudeau has only headed a minority government since 2019, the opposition could topple him in the confidence vote, which would lead to new elections. If Trudeau then no longer appears, Chrystia Freeland’s hour should strike again.

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