Meet the Liberal candidate for Toronto Centre
For more on Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland, here’s a transcript of key portions of our interview with her.
On Income Inequality
To think that the economic policies that worked in the 70s are going to work forever is a temptation. It is intuitively obvious…that what is going on is new and different. Up until the late 70s or early 80s you have GDP growth correlated pretty much in a straight line with growth of wages in the middle. I think there are three things that drove that breakdown. One of them is the fact that there were a set of protocol changes—weakening of union protection, deregulation, and so on. But that’s only part of it. There are some underlying really big economic shifts. The technology revolution has had huge impact on a number of sectors and on the breakdown of rewards in those sectors and the number of people that are employed in those sectors. Likewise globalization.
So I just think that it’s really important to be honest and thoughtful about how the world has changed…when the problems change we’re going to need new policies. Now what are those policies? I certainly think that we need a social welfare system and a social safety net, and that had frayed a lot under the current government and we need to rebuild it. I also think that we need a real focus on entrepreneurship, we need to understand that the jobs of the past, many of them are never coming back, and the sort of life cycle where you got a job and work at the same job for your whole life, that is not going to work for most Canadian people. They are going to have to invent their own jobs, and that can be okay, but we have to be sure that Toronto Centre is a place that provides a real platform for doing that. If that seems too abstract, that is already happening here at the DMZ at Ryerson. We need to double down on that kind of thing.
A third area that we need to focus on is social opportunity and social mobility. One thing we know about rising income inequality is that it correlates in a direct line with falling social mobility. So we have to attack that by really strengthening and improving early childhood education, attack that by making more affordable post-secondary education, including vocational training.
…[E]conomic growth for Canada, for Ontario, for Toronto Centre, to me that’s an incredibly important part of expanding opportunity for the middle class here. One of the things I really worry about the world economy right now is that we could be entering a period of sectoral stagnation, and that is really worrying for people earning the median income who are struggling already. So let’s focus relentlessly on getting growth—I am supportive of expanding trade—incomes in the tradeable sector are 50 per cent higher than in the non-tradeable sector, so that’s really important.
On Jobs and Infrastructure
We need to work on developing concrete projects on infrastructure. In Toronto Centre, people who live here certainly know it needs more infrastructure. This is a city bursting at its seams in terms of transit and housing, and infrastructure is a tremendously effective supplier of jobs. The other thing I think is that we are now in contrast with the 90s or the 80s or the 70s, living in a really low-interest-rate environment and it looks as if those low-interest rates may prevail for some time. If you’re living in an environment where you need more jobs, where your infrastructure is falling apart before your eyes and interest rates are really low, it’s a no-brainer to say let’s do some big infrastructure projects.
On Working Abroad
I have had the good fortune to be born in Canada, and my eldest daughter was born right here in Toronto Centre. But this is one of the most of the most diverse communities in Canada and in the world, and that’s one of our great successes here. More than half the people in Toronto were born in another country, and one of the great things about Toronto and about Canada, and one of the reasons we have made multiculturalism work, is that there is no back of the bus. Regardless of whether you became a Canadian citizen yesterday, or you are descended from five generations here, you have an equal voice, an equal right to participate in our society. So I really feel that my own diverse life experience is a good match for the diversity of the riding, and that’s the reaction I’ve been getting at the door. A lot of people are interested in and enthusiastic about the fact that, like them, I have had a lot of life experiences outside of Canada. The other thing I would say is that now in the 21st century, at a time when the world economy is more integrated and competitive than ever, now more than ever that it’s really valuable to have people contributing to the public policy conversation in Canada who have experience outside the country. A life that involves working in and understanding the rest of the world and also involves getting a seat at the table in some of the important international conversations—I see that very much as a positive and a plus that I am offering to the people of Toronto Centre.
On Climate Change
Climate is a concern for all humans on planet Earth. I think it’s a scientific fact and there are far too many tragedies which we all see…I don’t want to make a scientific assertion which I haven’t been personally been able to prove but we certainly seem to be seeing more and more really big and tragic weather events and it’s hard not to connect those with climate change. I haven’t heard people proactively raising it at the door but of course it’s a huge issue, how could it not be?