Chrystia Freelandâ€™s Liberal Use of Economic Platitudes
Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein has interviewed the presumptive Liberal candidate in Toronto Centre, Chrystia Freeland, who declares, â€œIâ€™m a capitalist red in tooth and claw.â€
To his credit, Klein asks her a couple of times for policy specifics. She concludes the interview by saying:
My job right now is to win the right to be part of the conversation in the Liberal Party. If I do that, I win the right to have a seat at the table as the Liberal Party comes up with that agenda. And in 2015 the Liberal Party can present that agenda to Canadians.
Thatâ€™s fair enough. For example, if Linda McQuaig is elected, not all of her policy proposals will be in the next federal NDP platform. But we know that she would be a strong voice for those ideas around the New Democratic caucus table.
It would be nice to know what proposals Freeland intends to bring to the Liberal conversation. In response to Kleinâ€™s first question about policy specifics, Freelandâ€™s first three themes echo The Globe and Mail op-ed thatÂ I critiqued two weeks ago.
First, she aspires to â€œpreserve mobility and citizenship at a time of rising inequality.â€ Again, her stated goal is not to actually reduce economic inequality, but to maintain social mobility given greater economic inequality. To her credit, she at least broadens her social-mobility toolkit from public education to also include public healthcare and unspecified anti-poverty measures.
Second, she supports entrepreneurship. I remain concerned that being â€œthe most attractive place for entrepreneurshipâ€ is code for tax cuts, deregulation, etc. But Freeland assuages that concern to some extent by recognizing that social insurance programs can enable people to take risks such as starting a business.
Third, she wants to â€œrealign what the executives and officers of companies are incentivized to do with the broader public good.â€ She drops the reference to social impact investing (to which I had objected) and instead talks about corporate governance in general.
Finally, she is concerned about:
. . . how the tax burden on global companies is steadily coming down, very often because theyâ€™re operating in a global space and taxation systems are national. And a consequence of that is either the tax burden on the middle class increases or government is able to deliver fewer services.
That is an important concern and she gets an extra point for not trying to claim that Canadian taxes on multinational corporations are borne by Canadaâ€™s middle class. But simply recognizing the problem does not situate her to the left of David Cameron.
The question is what to do about it. While measures to combat tax avoidance could be too technical for this sort of interview, she does not even say whether she supports or opposes the corporate tax cuts enacted by recent Liberal and Conservative governments.
Freelandâ€™s Washington Post interview is less objectionable than her Globe and Mail op-ed. But we still have little sense of what specific policy proposals, if any, she might champion.
She has boldly come out in favour of greater social mobility, more entrepreneurship, better corporate governance and less corporate tax avoidance. We can presumablyÂ add motherhood, apple pie and Justin Trudeauâ€™s hair to that list.