The Current

Challenge for next government is to make sure no one is left behind: Chrystia Freeland

Laura Lynch sat down with Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland to talk about what the Liberals are offering voters, as well as her thoughts on technology, climate change and racism in Canada.

The Liberal candidate says the way to combat inequality is by 'investing in Canadians'

Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland warned that when people are 'left behind,' they are vulnerable to 'irresponsible politicians [who] whip up a sort of angry nativist sentiment.' (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

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The challenge facing whoever forms Canada's next government will be making sure there is no group in society who "feel left behind," says Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland.

Freeland is foreign affairs minister, and is running for reelection in the Toronto riding of University-Rosedale. 

She told The Current's interim host Laura Lynch that Canada is "absolutely not immune to the strains and stresses and dangerous divisive politics we are seeing in other liberal democracies." 

"We are seeing in too many countries — where you have a group of people in the country who are left behind — that that creates an opportunity for irresponsible politicians to whip up a sort of angry nativist sentiment," Freeland said.

Part of the problem is the "winner-take-all technology revolution," she continued.

"The shape of the 21st-century economy in Western industrialized countries is difficult, it leans towards inequality."

Freeland with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau in May. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

The way to combat it is by "investing in Canadians," she said, as well as "investing in science and innovation so that your country, as a country, is able to be at the cutting edge of innovation."

Investing in science and innovation was a major part of the Liberal party's platform in the 2015 election, but doesn't feature as prominently this time around.

While the party has been criticized for the shift in focus, their pledges do include cash incentives for startups; making student loans interest-free for two years after graduation; and a promise that graduates won't have to pay until they earn over $35,000 annually. 

Despite her warning, Freeland described Canada as the "strongest liberal democracy in the world."

"I don't claim that as an accomplishment of our government, I claim that as an accomplishment of Canadians."

Racism in Canada

Following the publication of images of Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau in brownface and blackface, a former foreign policy adviser said he had encountered racism while working for the Liberal government.

"I basically had to leave my dream job because of racist prejudices that went unacknowledged," Omar Aziz told CBC's The House.

Freeland responded by saying that "the reality is there is racist prejudice everywhere in Canada," but that "we all have an obligation to work as hard as we can to fight that."

"The starting point is actually to say to people of colour: 'Tell us what you are experiencing, and tell us what we need to do together to create — starting off — a workplace, a university, a country where all Canadians are treated equally, and all Canadians have the same shot," she said.

"But I do 100 per cent acknowledge that we are not there yet."

The Liberal government approved the expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline earlier this year. (Nick Purdon/CBC)

Fighting climate change needs 'balanced approach'

On the environment, the Liberals have pledged to phase out coal by 2030, and reach net-zero emissions by 2050. They also pledge to plant 2 billion trees over 10 years, but have faced criticism for the purchase of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.

Freeland argued that "the reality is that fossil fuels are part of the Canadian economy today, and they're part of the world economy today."

"We can't put the economy and the environment in opposition to each other," she said.

"What we have to do is find a balanced approach that allows us to fight climate change and grow the economy at the same time," she said.

Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Max Paris.