Canada’s new finance minister breaks the glass ceiling

Chrystia Freeland adds the Minister of Finance to her resume alongside the Deputy 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 the finance minister to the list after Bill Morneau resigned in August amid a conflict-of-interest charity scandal.

Freeland, who as Commerce Secretary faced off against the Trump administration in negotiations over a revamped NAFTA (now known as the USMCA) trade deal, becomes the first woman to hold a position in the finance in Canada.

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

With a raging pandemic and the economy shut down, Freeland faces a difficult landscape. Economic forecasts suggest that even by the end of 2021, the economy will not have recovered to where it was at the start of this year, and unemployment is likely to remain high.

The government estimates that 4 million people will claim a package of income support measures totaling C$37 billion ($28 billion) in proposed spending. Federal spending has increased rapidly during the pandemic. The deficit in Canada is C$343.2 billion and the total gross federal debt is C$1.2 trillion, two records.

Following this latest cabinet reshuffle, 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. With the Trudeau Liberals holding a minority grip on government, there is little appetite for an election during the Covid-19 crisis.

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