A panel of former political strategists has singled out International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland as one of the top performing Liberal cabinet ministers last year, but gave some low marks to Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was highlighted as both his government’s biggest asset and potential liability going into 2017.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau applauds International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland in Toronto on Jan. 13, 2016. (Photo: Chris Young/CP)
The Huffington Post Canada hosted three political thinkers from opposite ends of the spectrum last week:
- Peter Donolo, former communications director for prime minister Jean Chretien
- Tom Parkin, former NDP staffer and columnist
- Jenni Byrne, former senior adviser to prime minister Stephen Harper.
When asked to name the top performing ministers of the last year, both Donolo and Parkin mentioned the man at the top.
Donolo said Trudeau has ushered in excitement and international acclaim. “All prime ministers, for better or worse, personify their governments,” he said. “Justin Trudeau is by far a strong asset for this government.”
Parkin said Canadians want to like Trudeau and give him the benefit of the doubt.
“They want to have hope and he symbolizes that,” Parkin said.
Justin Trudeau speaks to the United Nations General Assembly. (Photo: Seth Wenig/The Associated Press via CP)
Byrne agreed that change was definitely top of mind for Canadians in the first half of 2016, but suggested the last six months has put Trudeau’s team in a different light. So-called cash-for-access fundraisers, a statement marking the death of Fidel Castro that “drew the ire of people around the world,” and reluctance to move quicker to help Yazidi victims of genocide were all stains, she said.
“Obviously people know who Justin Trudeau is, he is known around the world but I think actually people are seeing who he actually is,” she said. Watch more of Byrne's thoughts below:
Byrne said Freeland performed “extremely well” inking the trade deal between Canada and the European Union that was first negotiated by the last Conservative government.
Freeland proved the naysayers wrong and showed herself to be a savvy negotiator, Donolo added. The trade minister famously walked out of talks meant to bring onside the Belgian region of Wallonia.
“She turned out to be absolutely right,” he said. “I think it wasn’t the first time she’s been underestimated.”
When it came to weaker performers, Monsef was called out by both Byrne and Parkin for her handling of the electoral reform file.
But from a Conservative point of view, Byrne called Monsef, Government House Leader Bardish Chagger and Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion some of the “best” for the way they help her side. See more of what the panel said:
Parkin said Monsef has been a “disaster,” in part because Liberals don’t actually want to reform the electoral system.
“This was set up to fail. In a way, Monsef is… it’s tragic. You pluck this person out who doesn’t have much experience, you throw her into a dangerous portfolio,” he said. “I wonder at what point Mr. Trudeau actually told her that he wasn’t really that interested in her success.”
Parkin also called out Finance Minister Bill Morneau for his comments about youth unemployment and “job churn,” and Trudeau — who he earlier listed as an asset.
“There’s a reason that they’re in a disaster about electoral reform. It’s him. There’s a reason that they’re in a disaster over pay for access, it’s him! He set those rules and he failed to support to support those rules and enforce those rules.”
The panel turned lively at points as Donolo and Parkin debated whether or not Trudeau has kept his promises:
Byrne and Parkin were put on the spot about the very different leadership races in their respective parties. The Tories boast 14 official candidates, while New Democrats don’t have a single candidate yet.