OTTAWA – The international trade minister is pushing back at her Conservative rival’s accusations in the House of Commons that she’s in need of “adult supervision.”
Chrystia Freeland first heard the remark Monday during question period, when Tory trade critic Gerry Ritz levelled a withering broadside over her failure to seal the contentious Canada-EU trade deal.
Today, she heard something similar – but this time, she was prepared.
Freeland, 48, says it’s a privilege for her to represent her country in trade negotiations, saying she’s “all in” for Canada.
She says she’s proud of the things she’s done in her life, from being raised in northern Alberta to being the mother of three children in Toronto, as well as the work she’s done as a member of the Liberal government in representing her constituents.
Freeland says everyone in the House of Commons is an adult, and it undermines the institution to suggest otherwise.
“I am 48 years old – I think I have the wrinkles and the grey hair to prove it – and I’m proud of the things I’ve accomplished in my life,” Freeland said later outside the Commons.
“It was surprising to me to hear a member question whether another member of the House was an adult. We’re all adults in the House of Commons, and I think it diminishes us all to suggest otherwise.”
On Monday, Ritz – a Saskatchewan MP and former agriculture minister – accused Freeland of having a “meltdown” and “throwing in the towel” last week when she walked out on trade talks in Brussels, frustrated over persistent opposition from a holdout region of Belgium.
“Since the trade minister is incapable or unwilling to do her job and ratify this vital trade deal, will the prime minister grab some adult supervision, get on a plane, and go back over to Brussels and get this job done?” he demanded.
The remark touched off a minor flurry of reaction on Twitter and elsewhere on the social media plane, with some observers suggesting there was a sexist subtext to Ritz’s attack.
Then on Tuesday, the Conservative MP appeared to double down.
“When the now-trade minister was in opposition as trade critic, she said, and I quote: ‘Mr. Speaker, we in the Liberal party are adults’,” he said.
“Unfortunately, she was unable to follow her own advice last week as she stormed out of the room during important talks.”
Following question period Tuesday, Liberal MPs came to Freeland’s defence, including Toronto MP and Science Minister Kirsty Duncan.
“I think my friend and colleague has stood up for Canada and stood strongly, and she’s always a strong advocate for Canada and has worked tirelessly for this agreement and I think she spoke very strongly in the House,” Duncan said.
“It’s 2016, and a woman and a man can do any job equally well. And we have an outstanding trade minister who does our country proud each and every day.”