Why a KGB Memo from the 80s Could Choose Canada’s Next Prime Minister

Canadian deputy PM Chrystia Freeland’s pro-democracy activities in Soviet-era Ukraine could rescue the Liberal Party from Justin Trudeau’s declining popularity

Grant Wyeth
GEN
Published in
7 min readNov 11, 2021

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland (Photo by CHRIS WATTIE/AFP via Getty Images)

An intriguing article on Canada’s deputy prime minister and minister for finance, Chrystia Freeland recently appeared in Canada’s paper of record, the Globe and Mail. The article presented details from the KGB’s archived files on Freeland from her time as an exchange student in Ukraine in the late-1980s. Explaining how the KGB found her to be an enormous pest, but also seemed to have great respect for her, describing Freeland as “erudite, sociable, persistent, and inventive in achieving her goals.” It was a burnishing of Freeland’s image that no amount of conventional political attributes could buy.

Yet what the article also did was provide the Liberal Party with a path toward solving its current primary problem; the waning popularity of prime minister, Justin Trudeau. For two elections in a row, the Liberal Party has lost the overall popular vote, and has also been unable to secure a majority of the seats in the House of Commons. The party has only been able to hold on to power due to an electoral system and a regional distribution of seats that allows it to win more seats than its chief rival, the Conservative Party, with fewer votes.

This may be a privileged position to be in, but it’s not one that inspires confidence. The blunt reality is that Trudeau is no longer the asset he was to the party in 2015, where his celebrity status and alluring social media presence were able to rocket the party from its miserable third-party status to a comfortable majority government. Then, Trudeau had resurrected the party from what then seemed like its inevitable decline, now he presides over a party that is treading water.

However, the Liberal Party is one of the Western world’s most adaptive and successful political organisations. It has governed Canada for 70 of the last 100 years, and it has done so by quickly learning the lessons the electorate delivers it and altering its behaviour accordingly. Trudeau himself was the necessary reaction to the hubris of Michael Ignatieff’s…

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Grant Wyeth
GEN
Writer for

I am a Melbourne-based writer. I am a contributing author at The Diplomat and write a weekly newsletter for Australian Foreign Affairs. Twitter: @grantwyeth