OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) — Making history, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland is Canada’s first female finance minister.
In a small, physically distanced ceremony Tuesday afternoon at Rideau Hall, Freeland was officially sworn in, replacing Bill Morneau after his controversial resignation the night before.
New Brunswick MP Dominic LeBlanc is taking over Freeland’s post as the intergovernmental affairs minister, a role he held previously.
But Freeland’s new role will come with challenges as the country navigates through the most difficult economic circumstances since the Great Depression.
She will now be tasked with managing a COVID-19 recovery that is still very much underway, with more than 40 per cent of the three million workers who lost jobs due to the pandemic still unemployed as of mid-July.
Employment Insurance poses another hurdle. Fewer than one-third of the 4.7 million Canadians who were receiving the $2,000-per-month Canada Emergency Response Benefit at the beginning of August would qualify for EI when the CERB ends on Sept. 26, though eligibility changes are expected.
Meanwhile, the spectre of protectionism continues to loom large after U.S. President Donald Trump reimposed tariffs on Canadian aluminum earlier this month — Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden also harbours protectionist sentiments — further complicating trade relationships.
Freeland has often been picked to take on the most difficult files in government, including NAFTA negotiations.
Earlier, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh congratulated Freeland, but he says the prime minister has to do a lot more than shuffling the cabinet.
“Really, what we’ve seen as a pattern of behaviour with the Liberal government is, when given the chance, they end up helping themselves or their close friends, get caught up in scandals, and they waste that time that could be spent on helping Canadians and Canadians end up paying the price,” he said.
There is word Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be proroguing parliament, which would suspend planned sittings. It was due to begin next month.