Chrystia Freeland delivers her economic update today. Chantal Hebert writes that, for Freeland, today is an inflection point:
Monday’s long-awaited federal fiscal update will be Chrystia Freeland’s first major solo performance as finance minister. She will need to make it count as it may also be her next-to-last in this Parliament.
By all indications, the update won’t bring the curtain down on Justin Trudeau’s minority government, but it will be a dress rehearsal for a spring budget that could well lead to a general election.
The conventional wisdom is that we'll have a spring election. The Conservatives, under Erin O'Toole, are already chomping at the bit. They talk about Canada being at the end of the line for vaccines. And, with protests against public health guidance growing across the country, this could very well be our winter of discontent.
Freeland's job is to help navigate the country through this winter:
Whether the next federal campaign comes over the first half of 2021 or later, the Liberals’ re-election to government will depend in no small part on Freeland’s performance as finance minister.
To secure a mandate to shepherd Canada out of the field of relative fiscal and economic ruins left behind by the pandemic, Trudeau will need his finance minister to complement rather than replicate his political branding.
To define what would constitute success on Monday is in itself a challenge.
As they struggle with the uncertainties brought about by the pandemic, most voters are not (yet?) inclined to prosecute the government for the massive and still-mounting deficit Freeland will present them with next week.
But nor are most Canadians — notwithstanding the vocal lobbies that have been looking to the pandemic for momentum to advance their agendas — craving a major experiment in social engineering.
While the fiscal update will lead to much debate as to whether Freeland has succeeded at striking a magic balance between fiscal rectitude and policy activism, the core message many voters will be looking for next week may be whether hers is a steady hand at the wheel.
These are difficult times -- for Freeland and the country.
Image: South China Morning Post