Politics

Freeland's resumé is tailor-made to be finance minister, says former PM Campbell

Chrystia Freeland's appointment as finance minister breaks down another barrier for women in politics, says former prime minister Kim Campbell, who adds that one doesn't need to come from Bay Street to be successful in the portfolio.

Chrystia Freeland was sworn in as Canada's first female finance minister Tuesday

Canada's new Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland covered the world of finance as a journalist, and spent some time as managing director of Thomson Reuters. But she lacks the Bay Street credentials of her predecessor, who was CEO of the large Canadian human resources firm Morneau Shepell. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Chrystia Freeland's appointment as finance minister breaks down another barrier for women in politics, says former prime minister Kim Campbell, who adds that one doesn't need to come from Bay Street to be successful in the portfolio.

Speaking to Power & Politics host Vassy Kapelos Thursday, Campbell said she wasn't surprised by the appointment, and she's "delighted" by it.

Freeland was appointed Tuesday, after Bill Morneau's sudden resignation from cabinet Monday night amid the WE Charity controversy. He also stepped down as the MP for Toronto Centre, and will now seek to lead the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

"It's one of those portfolios that for some reason or other people don't see women in ... there's no reason why women should not be ministers of finance," Campbell said. "We have this idea that unless you are wearing a three-piece suit and look like you come from the Bay Street that you shouldn't be a finance minister and that's completely wrong."

Some have questioned if Freeland has the background for the portfolio, given that she was a journalist before entering politics. When asked if that questioning is inherently sexist, Campbell said it is because the same criteria are not applied to men.

"That is really how sexism operates," she said. "It's not giving people the benefit of the doubt — establishing criteria that you wouldn't apply to men."

Watch the full interview with former Prime Minister Kim Campbell:

Former Prime Minister Kim Campbell, who is Canada's first and only female prime minster, on Chrystia Freeland's appointment as Canada's first female finance minister. 11:56

She added that many former finance ministers, such as John Turner and Jean Chrétien, were lawyers, not businessmen.

"It's this whole sense that, first of all, that business is a good preparation. It might be for some things. But in 2008 all sorts of very expensively-educated business people threw the world into financial crisis," she said. "There's a lot more to making financial policy than simply understanding how business works."

Business journalism background

Campbell said Freeland has more than enough experience for the role, pointing to her work with the Financial Times as the Moscow bureau chief in the 1990s and her five years at the cabinet table, where she most notably negotiated the new NAFTA agreement as minister of foreign affairs. She also has a degrees from Harvard and Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar.

"The principles of international finance, understanding the demands on business, these are all important things that go into making government policy—no question about it," Campbell said, and there are different ways to get those skills. 

"I think Chrystia Freeland has a bio, has a resumé that's kind of tailor-made to be minister of finance," she said. "Only somebody thinking it is inappropriate because it's attached to a woman would not see that."

Kim Campbell was Canada's first and only female prime minister, serving from June to November 1993. She also faced sexism in the role, she said, being referred to as a "rookie." She asked an assistant to check, she said and in fact, she had some of the most robust cabinet experience. 

"It turns out that of the 18 men who proceeded me as prime minister, only eight had more cabinet experience than I had," she said.

now