Chrystia Freeland has achieved much in the private sector, and her performance as a senior Cabinet minister has been mostly praised. But her elevation to finance minister is a stretch. Remember, she wasn’t Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first choice for finance – that was Bill Morneau in 2015. But Morneau has abruptly resigned the position and is leaving politics in the midst of the WE Charity scandal, a pandemic, and perhaps during the greatest financial crisis faced by Canada.
Freeland has little experience with financial issues. Morneau had experience as a businessman and worked on Bay Street. When he was sworn in as finance minister in late 2015, much was made about his impeccable business credentials.
Freeland got the nod as Morneau’s replacement for three reasons.
Firstly, she’s done well with the considerable work she’s taken on in Cabinet.
Secondly, Trudeau’s bench strength is surprisingly small. Few Liberal MPs are qualified to take on the finance portfolio, and it’s doubtful Freeland can do it. But there were very few MPs that Trudeau could turn to, and certainly none as loyal as Freeland.
And loyalty is the third and perhaps most important reason. Chrystia Freeland has never wavered in her loyalty and commitment to the PM’s ideals and objectives, even as they collided with scandal and controversy.
How loyal is she? When it was revealed that the prime minister had worn black face, not once but on several occasions, Freeland offered her complete support for a man who had engaged in a profoundly racist practice.
“We do happen to have an election and I have tremendous confidence in Justin Trudeau as the leader,” she told Reuters last September. “The prime minister absolutely has my full and complete support.”
And when it was found that Trudeau violated ethics rules by trying to influence former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, by asking Wilson-Raybould to overrule a decision to not grant a deferred prosecution agreement to Quebec-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin, it was Freeland who responded that she had “100 per cent” confidence in the prime minister.
Freeland was especially pleased that Trudeau had “stepped up and said he accepts full responsibility.” But she had little to say about his contribution to what was then (in early 2019) the biggest scandal this Liberal government had so far faced.
She is loyal to a fault. And that’s what matters most for Justin Trudeau, who ironically showed little loyalty to Bill Morneau and none to Wilson-Raybould.
– Peter Epp