Chrystia Freeland steps back from ‘no contact’ comments about Disney+
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland admitted her own privilege Monday as she acknowledged Canadian families’ struggles with the skyrocketing cost of living, after facing criticism over her family’s cost-cutting decision to cancel their Disney+ subscription.
“I’m a very privileged person, for sure. Like other elected federal leaders, I get a really substantial salary. I really recognize that it’s not people like me, people who have my real happiness, who are struggling the most in Canada,” Freeland said in Milton, Ont.
The deputy prime minister said the struggles of Canadians shaped the fall economic statement released last Thursday and prompted the federal government to prioritize helping vulnerable people with measures such as the permanent elimination of interest on the federal portion of student loans, enrichment and redesign of the student loan. Canada Workers Benefit, and some housing measures.
“They are people across the country who are earning low incomes who are really finding that today’s high prices mean they have to make difficult choices about what food to buy, whether to buy groceries or pool the money to pay the rent,” she said.
“It’s the recognition that the people in Canada who are struggling for whom inflation is really a direct, personal challenge.”
Following the government’s economic update last week, Freeland appeared on Global News’ ‘The West Block’ hosted by Mercedes Stephenson. Asked if Ottawa is open to considering wasteful spending programs, Freeland said the government announced in April it was looking for $9 billion in savings in the federal budget. She added that the autumn financial statement revealed that more savings were found than the April budget had anticipated.
To drive home her point, Freeland cited an example of her family’s own lifestyle choices: canceling her kids’ Disney+ subscriptions to save $13.99 per month.
“I told the kids, ‘You’re older now. You don’t watch Disney anymore. Let’s cut the Disney+ subscription. So we cut it. It’s only $13.99 a month we’re saving, but every little bit helps,” she said.
“I think that I have to take exactly the same approach with the federal government’s finances, because it’s Canadians’ money.”
Social media users jumped on her comment, calling it “insulting”, “tone deaf” and “out of touch”. Her critics in the opposition parties echoed these sentiments.
“The finance minister, just like the prime minister, is out of touch with the realities of the hardships they have caused and continue to cause to Canadians. Many Canadians are cutting back on basic necessities and do not need a tone-deaf lesson from the finance minister on how to stretch a dollar,” it said Conservative MP Jasraj Singh Hallan, the party’s finance critic, told the Star.
“Canadians are struggling because of the Trudeau government’s greed and their out-of-control inflation-based borrowing and spending.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Freeland’s admission shows how disconnected the Liberal government is from ordinary Canadians.
“It is clearer than ever that Minister Freeland and her government do not understand what families are going through. Asking families to cut costs, instead of asking billionaires to pay what they owe, shows how out of touch the Liberals are with Canadians, Singh said.
The NDP leader said the government “chose not” to make things easier for families by waiving the GST on home heating and imposing a windfall tax on the oil industry and big grocery chains — both of which are making record profits.
A windfall tax refers to higher tax rates on above-average profits that result from unexpected events, such as the war in Ukraine that has led to record revenues for oil and gas companies.
The Autumn Economic Statement introduced a range of measures to help businesses and employees cope with the rising cost of living as the economy slows down. Freeland’s comments come as the Liberal government’s Bill C-11, or the Online Streaming Act, makes its way through the Senate. The proposed legislation seeks to amend Canada’s outdated Broadcasting Act to bring streaming giants, such as Disney+, under the same regulations that already apply to traditional broadcasters in this country. While the bill has generated its fair share of criticism, one of the government’s stated goals in passing the legislation is to support the creation and promotion of Canadian content on platforms like Disney’s.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION