Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. An Albertan-Canadian who has spent her entire life in the fabric of Canadian politics through her ventures in journalism and now the Canadian government. Freeland is now only second to Trudeau on who wields the most power in the country. Although formally, she may have fewer powers than Trudeau, her actual influence within the Liberal establishment is likely equivalent to his.
Freeland is a Ukrainian-Canadian who has proved herself to be at the helm of the Canadian Ukrainian response through unrelenting support with funds, military equipment, and diplomatic support for our Ukrainian allies. Not to mention she’s fluent in Ukrainian and Russian in addition to being fluent in Italian, French, and English. Her linguistic capabilities to ensure quality communication with European allies cannot be understated. And with Canada being the second-largest Ukrainian diaspora after Russia, Freeland’s solid Ukrainian heritage will surely gain the community’s respect.
As a Harvard graduate, she spent her university work terms in the Soviet Union, where she supported Ukrainian groups and was an activist for Ukrainian sovereignty. By Russia’s intelligence agency. She is well known amongst the Russian intelligence community and even Vladimir Putin for her role in spreading anti-soviet messaging during her time there. She was so effective the KGB gave her a codename; “Frida.” More information about Freeland’s Ukrainian heritage and influence is available.
Prime Minister Freeland or Something Else?
In current Canadian political discourse, many analysts are looking toward Trudeau’s successor. Who will take over the Liberal Party? Who will come after Trudeau? Can there be anyone other than Trudeau to lead the Liberals after a disastrous election in 2011?
For many political pundits, a mental ranking of who may take over Trudeau’s reign exists in our heads. The most common candidates in those rankings include the highly competent Anita Anand, the foreign affairs minister Melanie Joly, the energetic Francois Phillipe Champagne, the controversial Henry Rodriguez, and of course, my personal favourite, Chrystia Freeland.
Although it does seem that the Liberal Party is looking to make her more significant in Canada’s political discourse through her considerable involvement in the 2020 and 2021 annual budgets, her numerous showcases on news and social media to defend the Liberal policy, using her as the centrepiece of any Liberal shift in political messaging or priorities, she’s also one to be contributed to negotiating international trade deals, has played a significant hand on Canada’s domestic policy, and more.
There seems to be a deliberate effort to make Freeland more present in the media. To showcase to Canadians that she is alongside, working with Trudeau in running the country. In many instances, it seems as though Freeland is the ‘brains’ between the duo, with Trudeau bringing in the electoral ‘muscle’ through his brand. This is evidenced by Freeland taking over the role of providing fiscal policy in government and being the spearhead of debate during parliamentary question periods regarding budgetary policy.
Another advantage Freeland has over Trudeau is the factor of general competency. Her ability to maneuver questioning from journalists and during parliamentary debate stems from an understanding of what she is talking about as a Finance Minister. Trudeau has a more difficult time articulating his thoughts intellectually but shines during discussions about general social issues. Not to mention that Freeland doesn’t have the scandalous baggage of both Blackface and the SNC Lavalin scandal. Although Freeland is under Trudeau, she was not the media focus of these scandals when they happened—combined with her being well-known within news media and the general Canadian public. Freeland seems to be an obvious shoo-in for the Prime Ministerial role. She is the internal political equivalent to Trudeau and thus would be a natural pick for the internal Liberal establishment.
Perhaps it may be time for Trudeau to take on the Deputy PM role, with Freeland taking charge by becoming Canada’s Prime Minister.
However, it is always worth considering that Freeland’s passions may not be within politics but within geopolitics when considering her background in Ukrainian-Russian politics and covert operations and her history with anti-Soviet efforts. From her book, one can tell that Freeland is heavily interested in global affairs and doesn’t necessarily attribute her politics to one country or another. As a result, many western allies (particularly the US) are looking to Freeland to become the next NATO secretary general. For this job, she also seems to be a shoo-in; she is fully fluent in English, French, Italian, Russian, and Ukrainian; has ample political, geopolitical, and financial experience through her various cabinet positions; and understands the power of rhetoric, persuasion, storytelling, and speech through her background in journalism and public involvement.
Whatever decision she makes is sure to be the right one.
The federal government has officially given its recession warning for 2023. Freeland has taken the initiative by stating that the Canadian economy has “difficult days ahead.” Citing high inflationary pressures, increasing interest rates, and household discretionary spending being squeezed. Although the expectations of a recession have slowly risen over the past year, countries like Canada are officially preparing and warning their citizens about an upcoming recession.
As a response, Minister Freeland has officially told her colleagues in government that any new spending for programs in the upcoming Spring budget must be met with spending cuts do not propagate inflation even more.
In addition, Freeland’s government has recently passed a bill in Parliament that’s temporarily providing extra benefits for 11 million Canadians to help pay for rising costs; they gave a one-type housing benefit for low-income families struggling to pay for rent. They’ve successfully passed a dental care subsidy to help families pay for dental costs for children under 12.
The Liberals have recognized inflationary risks and are taking precautions through legislation, warnings, and pending spending cuts to tackle the crisis. And At the top of it all stands Freeland and Trudeau acting as captains of the ship sailing through a stormy Canadian winter. Both individuals are taking responsibility, and that responsibility will serve as a testament to voters whenever the next election is called.
Perhaps Freeland is attempting to shift the Liberals away from Trudeau’s brand of unrelenting spending to one that is more fiscally responsible and in line with budgetary concerns that the public is having. If Freeland is genuinely committed to such a shift, then Canada may be in for fiscal stability with little spending for the foreseeable future.
Although, if the government were to take this approach, then their commitments towards investments in housing, negotiating healthcare funding with the provinces, and their commitment to national Pharmacare may be at risk. If Freeland is serious about this shift in messaging, then social programs that have long been in demand in Canada will not be implemented any time soon.
However, at the end of the day, what the Liberals care about most is winning elections. If the Liberals believe that fiscal restrain is the answer to what voters want, then that’s what they’ll do. If the Liberals decide that spending is required for the electorate, that’s what they’ll do.
And Freeland is the one to lead the way in any shift in messaging. It wasn’t too long ago when Freeland was advocating for more spending; the 2020 and 2021 budgets contained historic spending programs, including 30 billion for a national Child-care program, 5.3 billion for a federal dental care program, 13 billion in investments for the Canadian military, billions for green technology and environmental policy, and some hundreds of millions for Indigenous and marginalized groups.
With Freeland being the Minister of Finance leading the contents of the last two budgets, Freeland is not afraid to spend big. But she also isn’t scared to restrain spending as well. When it comes to fiscal policy, she is willing to strike a balance. For Freeland, that is the pragmatism she feels Canadians are looking for during bad times. Spending and restrain go hand in hand with that depending on the situation.
The Freeland Ideology
As someone who has listened to Freeland’s speech dozens of times, I can’t help but point out that Freeland’s ideology is rooted in economics, finance, and doing policy as objectively as possible, even if the ‘objectivity’ is based on partisan beliefs. Some economic gain must justify every procedure in the long run, or her policies must be intended to help some people, be they marginalized or low-income.
For example, Freeland’s fall economic statement includes measures to help workers through an advance payment of the Canada Workers Benefit for those who qualified last year and an end to federal student loan interest on Canada Student Loans payments. These measures help workers and students with the cost of living through increases in the federal government footing the bill for some benefit programs.
Other significant policies Freeland has championed include the National Child-Care Program tabled in her 2021 budget. Freeland has said in various interviews and press conferences about her support for such a program even before budget 2021 introduced the legislation. Eventually, Freeland did introduce this program in budget 2021. Although credit is given to Trudeau, much of the push and negotiations were most likely done by Minister Freeland and the Minister of families, children, and social development, Karina Gould.
What this shows me is that Chrystia Freeland is an actual policy nerd. A policy nerd that wants to get things done through negotiation and hard work. Her dedication is evident from premiers in Canada who have consistently praised Freeland for her work with provincial governments. And gain support from premiers (especially Conservative Premiers like Jason Kenney and Scott Moe) showcases Freeland’s effective leadership and competency.
At the same time, Freeland argues that her budget policies are fiscally prudent. But all her budgets have been full of spending measures; budget 2021 included over 100 billion in new spending and budget 2022 included over 30 billion in new spending. The latest fall economic statement included a ‘mini-budget’ with over 30 billion of new spending over the next six years. The 2023 budget, scheduled for the Spring, is likely to include more spending measures when looking at Freeland’s spending patterns.
Compared to the previous Finance Minister before Freeland, Bill Morneau, Freeland seems eager to spend. And that desire to spend is, I suspect, Freeland’s way to reduce income inequality in Canada and increase social mobility. In her interviews and Ted Talks from before she entered politics, Freeland has been a prominent critic of growing income inequality all over the world. Freeland consistently calls for the top 1% to be taxed their fair share for the benefit of the lower and middle classes of society; to reduce inequality by wealth distribution in a productive manner.
At the same time, Freeland has repeatedly stated that she believes in capitalism and globalization. But the type of capitalism and globalization she believes in is likely a lot more ethical than you might think. Honest and ethical capitalism, some may call it. A recognition that growing inequality is increasingly becoming a boon to all countries in the world and that failing to deal with it sufficiently will have disastrous consequences for everyday people. Freeland desires a capitalist society that gives everyone a fair shot in life and a globalized economy that values freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. With calamities like corruption and private political capture of the state, power reigned to an absolute minimum. These basic assumptions are what most people would agree with on a fundamental level. Politicians like Freeland seek this specific iteration of capitalism. For Freeland, true capitalism that is honest and ethical for people has not been achieved. She would argue that we’re not even close.
However, in her book, Plutocrats, Freeland is fascinated, almost mesmerized, by how the ultra-rich live in our world. The ultra-rich are hardworking, highly educated, and innovative, just like the rest. But she poises this mesmerization of the ultra-rich as an exception to the global populous rather than a rule that is increasingly becoming more commonplace as the world becomes more developed. It isn’t about our differences but how exactly those lucky enough to become ultra-rich have run away with ever-increasing wealth and wealth disparity.
Further reading her book, as more and more people become a part of the middle class, the more people realize the conditions of inequality they are in. Eventually, there will be a breaking point in which the twin gilded ages of inequality in the developed and the developing world face the growing demands of a global populous that will demand more economical and social equality. Although many of these ideas are assumptions that Freeland makes, there are reasons to assume as the world increasingly faces an uncertain future from economic and climate catastrophe. The differences between the classes of the ultra-rich and the rest of us will have to meet one another. And although quite cynical, the world will be forced to cooperate in these uncertain times.
Final Thoughts on Freeland
Freeland’s potential is unlimited no matter what path she walks on. She could either serve this country indefinitely or broaden the scope of her influence by becoming an international figure. Either way, Freeland will be doing the world justice. And although I would much prefer her to be in politics in the future considering her qualifications, intelligence, and competency. Such an individual should not be limited to one path when the world’s doors are open for them.
For the Liberals, Freeland’s success within the establishment is assumed; it's a matter of whether they can convince her to stay longer in politics, for it could make or break the Liberal Party for the next decade. And although I’m sure Trudeau and the Liberal establishment are already talking about every possible venue for ensuring the Liberal Party’s success in the future, Freeland is no doubt a big part of that conversation about the end of the Liberal Party.
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