Freeland becomes Canada’s first female finance minister amid Trudeau scandal


Freeland’s transfer to funding allows Trudeau to put a new, forward-looking face on his government’s economic recovery plan – a plan unrelated to the scandal, but one that is well known and respected among Canadians and other countries that may do future business with Canada.

“We need a long-term plan for recovery – a plan that tackles head-on the fundamental shortcomings this pandemic has exposed,” Trudeau said.

The disproportionate effect of the economic downturn on women is not lost on Freeland. “I am happy to have the opportunity to bring my experience as a woman, as a mother, to this really important challenge facing our country,” she told reporters on Tuesday.

She made sure to highlight the importance of a “green” restart of the Canadian economy, a topic that would have sparked a clash between Trudeau and Morneau. “It also has to be fair. It needs to be inclusive and we need to focus on jobs and growth, ”Freeland said of the Liberals’ next economic plan.

As part of this agenda update, Trudeau essentially suspended parliamentary business until September 23, when his government will present a new agenda subject to a vote of confidence in the House of Commons. While the prime minister defended the move as a way to get Parliament to buy into his government’s post-Covid-19 direction, opposition MPs accused him of trying to bury the ethics scandal that has ravaged Ottawa in recent weeks.

Freeland is widely respected in Canada and abroad. Since the federal election and during the rollout of pandemic programs, she has developed close working relationships with many of Canada’s prime ministers and municipal leaders – many of whom were not very enthusiastic when the Liberals stayed at home. power last year.

“She is probably the most capable minister in the Trudeau government,” Conservative MP Randy Hoback, who is her party’s international trade critic, told POLITICO. “Whenever they have a problem file, they seem to give it to him.”

Still, some opposition leaders suggested on Tuesday that Freeland could be tainted by his association with Trudeau and Morneau, both of whom are being scrutinized for their role in approving a contract for WE Charity to run a scholarship program. of studies of 900 million Canadian dollars. The group paid Trudeau’s wife, mother and brother for work at charity events, and WE covered more than CAN $ 41,000 in costs for the trips Morneau’s family took with the organization in 2017.

“She was there,” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said of the Cabinet meeting in which the contract was approved.

Conservative finance spokesman Pierre Poilievre noted that Freeland heads the Cabinet committee focused on Ottawa’s Covid-19 response that initially gave the contract the green light. “This is the scandal we are involved in today,” he said.

The new finance minister supports not only an economic reset, but a huge fiscal hole.

An estimate prepared by the government in July predicted that the 2020-2021 federal deficit could climb beyond C $ 300 billion, precipitated by a simultaneous drop in revenues and an increase in emergency spending. Ottawa has paid C $ 2,000 per month to workers who have lost their jobs or had their hours cut since mid-March due to the pandemic, a program that could ultimately cost more than C $ 80 billion.

“Decisions made over the next few weeks will determine the country’s economic direction for the next several years,” Canadian Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Perrin Beatty said in a statement ahead of the swearing-in of Freeland. “As we emerge in the post-COVID world, we must build on the spirit of partnership that has developed during the pandemic to carefully but steadily reopen our economy and encourage the investment and private sector growth needed to protect the standard of living of Canadians.

Freeland has always been called upon to take on challenging and high level roles.

The former financial journalist, recruited to run for the seat of retired interim Liberal leader Bob Rae in 2013, quickly rose through the ranks of the Trudeau government when he became prime minister in 2015. Freeland started out as Minister of International Trade , closing free trade negotiations between Canada and the European Union.

As of January 2017, she was the country’s top diplomat, though she retained responsibility for renegotiating NAFTA after President Donald Trump made it clear that her criticism of the pact during the campaign electoral campaign were more than mere political overtures. The bilateral relationship with Canada is considered the country’s most important, as the United States is its main trading partner and shares with them the longest undefended land border in the world.

When the Liberals returned to power in a minority in the fall of 2019, Trudeau gave Alberta the additional role of intergovernmental affairs. Although historically viewed as a second-tier position, the position rose to greater prominence after an election campaign that saw regional divisions become more marked, with oil-producing provinces in the west largely rejecting Liberal candidates.

To sweeten the deal, Trudeau also named Freeland Deputy Prime Minister – a largely ceremonial title not often given to MPs, although it is clearly meant to recognize his accomplishments. He also maintained Canada-US relations under his leadership, further recognition of his importance to his government. As chairman of the Cabinet Covid-19 committee, Freeland played a major role in guiding Canada’s position on restricting movement over the country’s land border once the pandemic swept through the country. North America.

Hoback said he does not expect Freeland to abandon his Canada-U.S. Responsibilities, stressing that the role of finance minister could give him even more credibility with U.S. policymakers. Still, he said he was concerned that she and other Cabinet ministers with large portfolios were too dispersed during a critical time.

“In reality, you can’t do all of this,” he says.

A spokesperson for Freeland did not respond to a request for comment on whether this will remain within his responsibilities.

Trudeau said he and Freeland had discussed how to create a more just country for Canadians for almost a decade. “She has written a book on the subject and has been a key player in my government from day one,” he said.

Despite all her good faith, Freeland is almost certain to be burdened with tough decisions as Canada attempts to extricate itself from a pandemic-sized budget hole – choices that could at some point put her at odds. with Trudeau.

Freeland declined to describe the disagreements they had, although she said she and the Prime Minister reflected on it “with good humor” on Monday.

“My motto has been to have open and frank conversations with the Prime Minister in private, but also to have a united front when we go out in public,” she said.


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