Canada’s New Finance Minister Breaks The Glass Ceiling

Chrystia Freelandadds finance minister to herrésumé alongsidedeputy prime minister and minister of intergovernmental affairs.

There are few positions in the Canadian government that Chrystia Freeland has not held—deputy prime minister and minister of intergovernmental affairs in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet; also trade minister. In August, she added finance minister to the roster after Bill Morneau stepped down in August amid a conflict-of-interest charity scandal.

Freeland, who as trade minister went toe-to-toe against the Trump administration in negotiations over a revamped Nafta trade deal (now known as USMCA), becomes the first woman to hold the finance post in Canada.

“It’s about time that we broke the glass ceiling,” Freeland said at her swearing-in. “One of the hallmarks of our government has been an explicitly and proudly feminist agenda.”

With a pandemic raging and the economy shut down, Freeland faces a tough landscape. Economic forecasts suggest that even by the end of 2021, the economy won’t have recovered to its level at the start of this year, and unemployment is expected to remain high.

The government estimates that 4 million people will claim a series of income supports totaling C$37 billion ($28 billion) in proposed spending. Federal spending has climbed quickly over the course of the pandemic. The deficit in Canada is C$343.2 billion and total federal gross debt is C$1.2 trillion, both record highs.

Following this most recent cabinet shuffle, Trudeau suspended Parliament until September 23, when a new Speech from the Throne will be read outlining the government’s agenda for the next session. While Trudeau’s Liberals hold a minority grasp on government, there is little appetite for an election during the Covid-19 crisis.