Toronto's most inspiring people of 2016: Jane Taber on Chrystia Freeland, Canada's deal-closing trade minister

Her inspiring 2016: Closing the EU-Canada trade deal

Chrystia Freeland and I first met a few months before the federal election. She was buzzing with energy and speaking quickly about the campaign, issues in her riding and in the country and about being a mother of three and a woman in politics. 

The next time I saw her was last year at Rideau Hall. She was beaming, having just been sworn in to cabinet. Freeland made history that day as one of the 15 women appointed to Trudeau’s gender-balanced cabinet.

No surprise she was named the minister of international trade. She is one of Prime Minister Trudeau’s stars — a Rhodes Scholar and an expert on globalization, income equality and global affairs.

She has lived up to her star status, successfully negotiating the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). But stars can be targets, especially if they are women in politics.

At one point she walked out of the CETA talks when it looked like the deal had failed. She was visibly emotional. She was described in some reports as “teary-eyed.” For that, Freeland was accused by the opposition of having a “meltdown” and “fleeing the scene.” The suggestion was she wasn’t strong enough to negotiate the important treaty. In the end, however, she got the deal.

When I spoke to her this spring, she had been to six continents, some more than once, and was frazzled as she was dealing with the softwood lumber issue with the U.S., trying to open up Asian markets and negotiate CETA. 

She had other things on her mind too. 

“Sometimes who is going to be taking care of all of my kids on any given day is more complicated than any trade agreement,” she said.

Jane Taber is a former Parliament Hill reporter. This is the thirteenth story in our multi-part series on the most inspiring Torontonians of 2016. Yesterday's featured Mark Breslin's take on Lorne Michael's 2016.

The full index of our stories about Toronto's most inspiring people of 2016.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO