Chrystia Freeland will have to navigate misogyny in her new roles
Chrystia Freeland’s influence in the new Liberal minority government has been upgraded significantly with Justin Trudeau’s recent cabinet announcements.
She now serves in dual roles as deputy prime minister and minister of intergovernmental affairs. Freeland will also play key leadership roles on the “agenda, results and communications” and the “economy and the environment” cabinet committees.
In addition to her new formal mandates, however, Freeland will likely have to face another ongoing problem in Canadian politics: growing resentment and anger directed at women politicians.
As deputy prime minister, Freeland is now second in command. Whether her position will be ceremonial or substantive remains to be seen. Deputy prime minister duties are determined entirely by individual prime ministers.
Since the position was created in 1977, the importance of this role has varied. Under some prime ministers, the role was substantive, under others it was symbolic and under still others it was completely absent.
Only two other women have been deputy PM
As intergovernmental affairs minister, Freeland is responsible for federal-provincial/territorial relations. She does not head a department, but leads the Intergovernmental Affairs Secretariat, located in Privy Council Office, which serves a co-ordination role for the federal government.
With only one woman premier in Canada (Caroline Cochrane of the Northwest Territories), Freeland has been given a much-needed opportunity to inject a woman’s perspective into important intergovernmental concerns of the day, such as health care, the environment and equalization.
Freeland is also being asked to clean up some of the biggest Liberal messes of the last four years. This follows a typical gendered pattern: women leaders who inherit from their male predecessors a poisoned chalice.
Inheriting Trudeau’s national unity woes
The biggest mess left to Freeland is national unity. The dramatic re-emergence of western alienation, including strong political rhetoric and a fringe separatist movement, has frayed the national politics.
Many in Alberta and Saskatchewan argue that Trudeau’s actions have crippled the oil and gas sector. Specifically, they point to the failure of the Energy East pipeline, the overhaul of infrastructure approval processes (Bill C-69, referred to by critics as the “No More Pipelines Bill”), and the “tanker ban” (Bill C-48) on the northern Pacific coast but not the Atlantic coast.