Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday November 21, 2019
Why Chrystia Freeland is the indispensable Trudeau cabinet minister
Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland have been very good for each other. Not for the first time, the future of the Liberal government — and a lot else — seem to be riding on the two of them finding success together.
“She is someone with whom I worked very, very closely, and with great success, on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, with the challenges of the American administration,” Trudeau said Wednesday afternoon, using the most delicate language possible to describe the experience of dealing with Donald Trump’s White House.
“We know that as we move forward on issues that matter across the country, like energy and the environment and other large issues, we will have to engage in a strong and positive way with different orders of government.”
During a phone call with Trudeau in the summer of 2018, at perhaps the most contentious moment of the prolonged struggle over NAFTA, Trump described Freeland as a “nasty woman.” In some circles, that’s a badge of honour in its own right.
But Freeland came away from that prolonged drama with a claim to having played a pivotal role in preserving this country’s most important trading relationship at a moment of unprecedented instability.
Her reward is the title of “deputy prime minister” and responsibility for helping to hold together the world’s largest democratic federation at a time of profound change and uncertainty.
It’s the culmination of a political career that began six years ago when Trudeau and his top advisers recruited Freeland to run in a by-election in Toronto Centre. Trudeau had become Liberal leader just six months earlier and Freeland became his first star candidate — the first evidence that Trudeau could attract smart and accomplished people to serve alongside him.
Freeland was something like the platonic ideal of a Liberal candidate: a Harvard-educated Rhodes scholar who had become an internationally recognized journalist and author in New York. And while the Conservatives were scoffing that Trudeau wasn’t ready to lead, Freeland was ready to line up behind him.
From Trudeau’s perspective, not all of his star recruits worked out for the best (Jody Wilson-Raybould, most notably) but Freeland became central and integral to his government.
A year before she joined the Liberals, Freeland published her second book, Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else. Once in the fold, she was an important voice in shaping a political agenda focused on increasing taxes on the wealthiest and building supports for the middle class.
In Trudeau’s first cabinet, she was made international trade minister. There, she dragged a free trade deal with Europe to completion — famously displaying “visible emotion” during the final push. She was not a natural politician but she slowly got better at it. (CBC)