Back in the autumn of 2018, Gerry Nichols, writing in the Hill TImes, opined that the 2023 election would be more interesting than the 2019 version because, by then, Chrystia Freeland would be leading the Liberal Party. In January of this year, before the Philpott/SNC-Lavalin/Wilson-Raybould crisis, an opinion piece in Carleton University‘s weekly newspaper noted that “the latest Nanos Research poll shows Canadians still prefer the governing Liberals over the Conservatives by a small margin … [but one should be] … more focused on what will come after the election. Although the Liberals remain in the lead, they are unlikely to retain their large majority in the House of Commons. Unlike the relatively stable party polls, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s approval ratings have plummeted to just 35 percent, per a December 2018 poll from the Angus Reid Institute … [and, remember this is pre ‘Lavscam‘, and] … This is down from 63 per cent in October 2015, when his “sunny ways” message captured the hearts of Canadians from coast to coast to coast. These ratings are lower than those of U.S. President Donald Trump—let that one sink in … [and, further, the article says] … Trudeau’s low ratings are due to many factors, including the Liberal government’s failure to build the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion, as of now. This failure has angered supporters of Canadian oil exports, while environmentalists feel betrayed by a government that they believe is trying to have its cake and eat it too … [therefore the author of the opinion piece says] … It’s time for Trudeau to accept the truth: while the Liberal Party overall seems likely to remain in power after the next election, his leadership has forced the party to confront what could have been an easy challenge from the Conservatives, led by Andrew Scheer. Canadians have expressed discontent with the smug attitude of the prime minister, believing him to be all talk and no action. This has arguably helped spur the rise of right-wing provincial governments that vocally challenge Trudeau’s signature policies like the federal carbon tax.” The solution? The author says that “The Liberals could use a facelift … [therefore] … Trudeau should step down after the election, and Chrystia Freeland should run in the ensuing leadership vote—which she would almost certainly win—to be the next prime minister of Canada … [because] … Freeland, currently the Minister of Foreign Affairs, is the perfect choice to replace Trudeau. A highly educated and successful former journalist, she is distanced from the issues that plague other ministers, such as environmental and immigration mismanagement. She was recently ranked the most publicly popular of all 35 cabinet ministers, according to an Angus Reid poll.“
That’s a pretty fawning bit of ‘puff-pice‘ journalism, if journalism is the right word to use, but it pales in comparison to the article written in Chatelaine by Leah McLaren, just a few days ago which reads like a campaign platform. Ms LcLaren says that “You can actually feel the force of Chrystia Freeland’s ambition. It’s like a third party in the room (or a fourth, if you count the rotation of young, hyperefficient political aides who rarely leave her side). I’ve interviewed many smart, successful professionals, but Freeland’s drive is something else … [and] … Freeland served first as minister of trade and then replaced Stéphane Dion in foreign affairs in 2017. During that time, she has passed landmark anticorruption legislation; aggressively called out rogue dictatorships; condemned acts of genocide, rigged election results and human rights abuses; renegotiated two crucial international trade deals; defended the rights of women on the international stage; and made a political point of offering safe haven to high-profile asylum seekers like the famed White Helmets of Syria, and Rahaf Mohammed, the teenage girl who fled her abusive family in Saudi Arabia. Broadly speaking, she’s set herself a single-minded mission: to use Canada’s influence to defend democracy on the global stage.” You have to wonder if Ms Mclaren is promoting her for prime minister or sainthood.
Leah Mclaren goes on to say that “Like many highly effective people, Freeland thrives on chaos. Grace under pressure is her signature move. It’s one she executes with an almost eccentric lack of pretense—whizzing to meetings and black-tie events alike on a bicycle, sweat-wicking leggings under her ever-present uniform of a cocktail dress and pearls. Her role requires her to switch constantly between the practical reality of trade concerns and the more lofty ideals of international diplomacy. It can be a difficult, at times impossible, balance—especially when dealing with unpredictable foreign leaders.“
Then Ms McLaren tells us that the now infamous tweet about the arrest of a Saudi woman which led to a major downturn in relations with that unhappy country was not a mistake by some junior staffer, it was part of “a considered strategy undertaken by the minister’s office.” And Leah Mclaren notes, “As a minister, Freeland is notoriously hands-on … [and] … with Trudeau’s support wavering and the Liberal party showing fault lines, speculation over the next leader has already begun. If in October the Liberals end up with a minority government or lose power altogether, it could be Freeland’s moment to make a leadership bid.“
I have to wonder if the series of articles are part of an organized campaign, directed by Chrystia Freeland, herself, to undermine Justin Trudeau and replace him … perhaps this spring or early summer. I have been very clear that I think that it is imperative that the Liberal Party dump Justin Trudeau and replace him with a good leader … but, while I think that Ms Freeland is far from being the bottom-of-the-barrel in Justin Trudeau’s cabinet, in my considered opinion she is a weak and unsuccessful foreign minister and would be a very poor choice to lead the Liberal Party.
Prime Minister Trudeau has made a series of major foreign policy blunders. While I understand and agree that every prime minister is, to some extent, his (or her) own foreign minister, it is the duty of the designated foreign minister to advise the prime minister to, for example, not go to India and annoy the leaders of a rising world power and an important trading partner by using top-level diplomacy to advance a very parochial, domestic political agenda or to go to China in pursuit of a free trade deal and then, without warning, spring conditions which officials must have known would be unacceptable, again in an effort to do some virtue signalling for the voters back home. It was Ms Freeland’s job to tell the PM to not do those things. There is no indication that she has ever bothered to speak truth to power; if that’s the case then she’s both weak, personally, and ineffective, as a minister.
I understand the attraction of really changing the channel in Liberal politics by replacing Justin Trudeau with a well educated, worldly woman. But I would worry that, as even Ms Mclren admits, there is “a hairline crack in her otherwise serene public facade .. [and she is not good at] … The bit her boss is so effortlessly brilliant at. The dog-and-pony show. The hair and makeup. The earnest wardrobe discussions. The pressure to be fun,” and so on. I note that Ms Freeland had sour relations with the Trump administration, and while that is not, necessarily, a bad thing, it is not the sort of thing for which a foreign minister or a potential prime minister wants to be noted.
My belief is that Chrystia Freeland is running to be the leader of the Liberal Party, now … I also believe that she is far from being the best choice. She’s not the worst minister in the cabinet, but she’s not a really good one, either. I think the Liberals have better choices in the cabinet and caucus, right now: for an interim leader to take them into the October election and for a permanent leader, too.
I think some factions in the Liberal Party think Ms Freeland can be a winner, another saviour, even. I disagree. She is not the worst choice to succeed Justin Trudeau but she is far from the best. The Liberal party is, right now, paying the price for choosing a celebrity air-head to lead it. Ms Freeland is a bit of a celebrity but she is far from being a proven leader. The Liberals just made a political mistake … one definition of lunacy is to keep doing the same thing over again and expect different results. Justin Trudeau is, almost single-handedly, destroying the Liberal Party; replacing him with Chrystia Freeland would, in my opinion, finish the job … and that would be bad for Canada.
But my guess is that Chrystia Freeland is Justin Trudeau’s Marcus Junius Brutus ~ someone he trusts and even respects who is, now, plotting to stab him in the back.