Marco Levytsky, NP-UN Editorial Writer.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s widely-expected decision to appoint Chrystia Freeland as his Deputy Prime Minister is both a very welcome move and a very wise decision. In addition to that position, she assumes the portfolio of Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and will also continue to oversee some ongoing files from her previous position as Minister of Foreign Affairs – in particular implementation of the new North American Free Trade Agreement and relations with the United States.
As Deputy PM and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, she will have the responsibility of healing the rift between the Liberal government and the Prairies provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan who failed to elect a single Liberal Member of Parliament.
Even though, she currently lives in Toronto and represents a central Toronto constituency, Freeland was born in Peace River, Alberta, and grew up in Edmonton’s Ukrainian community. As such she is the closest thing Trudeau has to an Alberta representative.
She is also considered the most effective minister within the cabinet by most media pundits. CBC News termed her “the indispensable Trudeau cabinet minister”.
To explain something about the position of Deputy Prime Minister, it is not a cabinet portfolio that is a regular fixture. It was first created by Justin Trudeau’s father Pierre, in 1977 to recognize the political clout of Allan MacEachen, a key Liberal minister who also a principal political strategist. The last person to occupy that position was Edmonton’s Anne MacLellan, whose term ended in 2006. The position can be symbolic or it can carry considerable clout – best example being Don Mazankowski in former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s cabinet.
There is no question that Freeland will belong to that category of DPM’s who carry considerable clout.
“Chrystia and I have worked very closely on some of the biggest files facing Canada,” said Trudeau. “Our ability to work well together on these issues that touch national unity, touch energy and environment, touch relations with all provinces and regions in this country is going to be an extremely important thing at a time when we see some very different perspectives across the country that need to be brought together.”
The fact that she has been tasked with the difficult assignment of dealing with such virulent provincial enemies of the Trudeau government like Alberta’s Jason Kenney, Saskatchewan’s Doug Moe and Ontario’s Doug Ford, not to mention the even more difficult assignment of dealing with U.S. President Donald Trump (who has called her a “nasty women”), can only be considered a testament to her ability.
Chrystia Freeland is also very proud of her Ukrainian heritage. As Minister of Foreign Affairs, she has not only been very effective in promoting Canada’s support for Ukraine, but has been equally effective on the world stage. She has punched way above her weight in such international forums like the G-7 and NATO.
After obtaining a USSR press pass on the basis of a letter of accreditation from Ukrainian News in 1989, Chrystia cut her journalistic teeth as a Ukraine-based stringer for the Financial Times, The Washington Post and The Economist, then she went on to wear many hats at the Financial Times. Chrystia then served as deputy editor of The Globe and Mail between 1999 and 2001, before returning to the Financial Times as deputy editor and then as U.S. managing editor.
In 2010, she joined Canadian-owned Thomson Reuters. She was a managing director of the company and editor of consumer news when she decided to return home and enter politics in 2013.
She has written two books: Sale of the Century: The Inside Story of the Second Russian Revolution (2000); and Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else (2012). Plutocrats is an international best-seller and won the Lionel Gelber Prize and National Business Book Award.
In 2018, Chrystia was recognised as Foreign Policy’s Diplomat of the Year and was awarded the Eric M. Warburg Award by Atlantik-Brücke for her achievements in strengthening transatlantic ties.
Nevertheless, for all her abilities, Chrystia Freeland alone, cannot heal the rift Justin Trudeau has created between himself and the Prairie provinces. And this is one region where Trudeau has really blown it when it comes to cabinet appointments. He has 13 ministers from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and 10 from Quebec but only one from the three Prairies provinces that hold 62 out of 338 seats in parliament. Granted, Trudeau got totally shut out in Alberta and Saskatchewan, but he did manage to get four Liberals elected in Manitoba. Like it or not, the Liberal government needs to grant effective representation for Manitoba in Cabinet to compensate for the drought in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Yet Justin Trudeau did the exact opposite. He appointed only one Manitoba MP, Dan Vadal, who represents the riding of Saint Boniface-Saint Vital to a post (Minister of Northern Affairs) so junior that it has only now been set aside as a stand-alone portfolio. In the past the minister responsible for northern affairs had other responsibilities as well. What’s more, in terms of priority, Vadal is listed at the bottom of the cabinet list on the Prime Minister’s web page. Winnipeg North MP Kevin Lamoureux will continue as parliamentary secretary to the government house leader. But that is not a cabinet position. He should have been promoted as should have been Winnipeg South MP Terry Duguid. The remaining Manitoba MP Jim Carr (Winnipeg South Centre) was appointed as a special representative to the Prairies. But that, too, is not a cabinet position and, what’s more, on October 25, 2019, Carr issued a statement that having felt flu-like symptoms during the campaign, blood tests revealed shortly afterward that he had multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. Carr said that he would commence chemotherapy and dialysis treatment whilst remaining in the House of Commons. His ability to preform his duties, therefore, remains dubious. Trudeau’s reluctance to give substantial roles for his Manitoba MPs will haunt him in the future.
And what the future brings is the critical question insofar as Chrystia Freeland is concerned. It is no secret that the Liberals held on to power not because of Trudeau, but DESPITE Trudeau. That, and the fact that, aside from the Conservatives, the other three opposition parties all stand to the left of the Liberals on social and economic issues, means that most Canadians prefer progressive economic policies as opposed to conservative ones. With a more competent leader they could easily win another majority,
Chrystia Freeland is a staunch Trudeau loyalist, so don’t expect her to do any overt or covert campaigning for the job. The Liberals, however, consider themselves to be Canada’s “Natural Governing Party” and, as such, are determined to cling to power. Should Trudeau drop dramatically in the polls, or should he lose the next election, the pressure from inside the party on him to resign will be quite strong. Were that to happen, Chrystia would automatically become the front-runner in any leadership race. Even if Trudeau won a third term and decided to retire at his own pace, Chrystia would still be a front-runner.
Either way you look at it, Chrystia Freeland is a Prime Minister-in-Waiting.