Chrystia Freeland is Canada’s new finance minister.
Chrystia Freeland knows the world of finance inside out, mostly through her work as a journalist. But Canada’s first female finance minister lacks the Bay Street experience of her predecessor Bill Morneau. That has been the principal talking point as Freeland steps into what most consider the most important cabinet position in the country. Yet others say that her political experience and abilities as a negotiator more than compensate.
According to Camilla Sutton, president and CEO of Women in Capital Markets, a not-for-profit that works to improve the role of women in Canada’s finance industry, who spoke to CBC yesterday, Freeland is more than up to the job.
“While it’s true [Freeland] doesn’t come from a traditional finance background, she certainly has the financial acumen from having reported on it in a very senior level for major publications,” Sutton told CBC. “She definitely reported on some stories that required a deep understanding of finance.”
Joe Oliver, a former federal finance minister in 2014 and 2015, when the Conservatives were in power, likewise backed Freeland, saying that while Bay Street experience was clearly helpful, it certainly wasn’t all that mattered, adding that the new finance minister’s political experience would serve her well. The reality is that the background of recent Canadian finance ministers varies a lot.
Jean Chrétien’s finance minister, Paul Martin, was CEO of a large shipping company. Brian Mulroney’s finance minister, Michael Wilson, was a Bay Street investment executive. Yet others, such as John Manley, and prime ministers John Turner and Chrétien, were all lawyers. Jim Flaherty was Ontario’s provincial finance minister before getting the job with Stephen Harper’s government, but he too had practiced law before getting into politics.
In fact, many believe that as a Rhodes Scholar and top negotiator for the USMCA, Freeland has had better training than most candidates would have got on Bay Street. Rebekah Young, director of fiscal and provincial economics at Scotiabank, told CBC that the markets won’t have concerns about Freeland’s credentials. Rather, the focus will be on the policy directions she sets out.
Indeed, the lack of market reaction to Morneau’s resignation and Freeland’s new role indicates they are relatively reassured that he has been replaced by someone who the market is relatively familiar with.