Chrystia Freeland’s Liberal Use of Economic Platitudes

Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein has interviewed the presumptive Liberal candidate in Toronto Centre, Chrystia Freeland, who declares, “I’m a capitalist red in tooth and claw.”

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.

That’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 Klein’s first question about policy specifics, Freeland’s first three themes echo The Globe and Mail op-ed that I critiqued two weeks ago.

First, she aspires to “preserve mobility and citizenship at a time of rising inequality.” 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 “the most attractive place for entrepreneurship” 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 “realign what the executives and officers of companies are incentivized to do with the broader public good.” 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 they’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 Canada’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.

Freeland’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 presumably add motherhood, apple pie and Justin Trudeau’s hair to that list.


  • To all,

    Note with amusement how so many gaze upon this glorified blogger, Chrystia Freeland, as if she were the de-facto leader of the Liberal party (perhaps even our nation?).

    This is certainly not an effect of any merit on Freeland’s part. She has no experience as either a public-administrator or practicing-economist…yet her shallow musings & bastardized ideas are being scrutinized in the manner of a Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

    Such is the effect of the ‘Media Party’ on our tiny political class. The press has convinced this misguided lot that Justin Trudeau reigns as our Prime Minister in-waiting. But no one can fathom such a prepubescent nitwit handling the responsibilities of government & economy.

    So it happens that Freeland, some random by-election candidate, comes to be tasked with solving our socio-economic dilemma. Here is a court stenographer being asked to render the final verdict.

    Comedy or tragedy?,
    Dan Tan

  • LOVE the last paragraph, Erin!

    Still chuckling . . . .

  • Chrystia Freeland is a smart enough person who would add something to the Liberal conversation. The problem is that she is running against Craig Scott. Even if she wins, she will just be bumping off an even brighter light, with no net gain for the Progressive Majority.

  • Wait a minute–I correct myself–Scott is in Toronto Danforth , Jack Layton’s old riding. THat is why you are talking about Linda McQUaig. Sorry about that. Well, similar argument, Freeland and McQuaig are equally strong candidates, and I see little to choose between them. I suppose McQuaig is more “progressive” and Freeland has been addressing a more continental audience, having achieved some success and media exposure on liberal airwaves with her book on Plutocrats. I would give a slight edge to McQuaig, and hope that they don’t split the vote in such a way as to let COnservatives in!

  • The Conservatives got 23% of Toronto Centre’s votes in the last federal election, which was their best showing there since 1988. These days, it’s a two-way fight between Liberals and New Democrats.

  • Further McQuaig has written many more books and has lived in the riding for 13 years. On the other hand, Freeland grew up in Alberta and lived in the USA most of her adult career. She is not even from the said riding – she is the ultimate parachute candidate, just saying.

  • “I’m a capitalist red in tooth and claw,” says Freeland.

    “A reference to the sometimes violent natural world, in which predatory animals unsentimentally cover their teeth and claws with the blood of their prey as they kill and devour them.” – Source

    Nice image for the campaign, Chrys!

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