Chrystia Freeland has a great new job as Canada’s top diplomat, but in case anyone has forgotten, it’s not the job she was expected to do when she left journalism for politics a few years ago.
On the heels of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s big cabinet shuffle last week, Oxfam has delivered a report that reminds us of the burning issue that brought Freeland into public life: income inequality and the wealth gap.
“Soaring income inequality has become an undeniable political fact,” Freeland wrote in her 2013 best-seller, Plutocrats. According to Oxfam, that gap has been growing since Freeland’s book came out. Here in Canada, the wealth of just two billionaires — David Thomson and Galen Weston Sr. — is equal to that of about 11 million Canadians.
Canadian billionaires aren’t Freeland’s problem these days; a single American billionaire, president-elect Donald Trump, is going to be taking up most of the minister’s time. The irony hasn’t been lost on observers: The author of Plutocrats now has a full-time job managing one of them.
Which points to another yawning gap in public life: the one between governments reacting to events and shaping them. Trudeau’s cabinet shuffle — especially Freeland’s promotion — was about reacting to Trump’s administration and the shakeup it’s going to deliver to the world order. Will the new Global Affairs minister have the time, or the power, to think about bridging the divide between Canada’s rich and poor while Trump is in power?