Chrystia Freeland (lead picture, centre), the Ukrainian-Canadian who is Foreign Minister of Canada, was at a loss for words at the outcome of the Ukrainian presidential election on Sunday. Instead, she re-tweeted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement.
“Canada and Ukraine are united by a strong relationship, rooted in close people-to-people ties,” Trudeau declared, referring to the mostly western Ukrainians – now numbering three million, ten percent of Canada’s population. They had sided with Adolph Hitler and the German Army in World War II; after their defeat they were accepted by Canada as refugees. Freeland’s maternal grandfather, Michael Chomiak from a village near Lviv, had served in the German Army as a spy and as press editor and propagandist for the administration of Galicia, which then included both Ukrainian and Polish territory, headed by Governor-General Hans Frank (lead image, left).
“We are unwavering in our support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and our enduring commitment to the rules-based international order,” Trudeau announced, and Freeland re-tweeted in a formula broad enough to accept terms with Russia to end the five-year war in the east of Ukraine. “I look forward to working with President-elect Zelenskiy to deepen our relationship and build a more secure, more prosperous future for people in both our countries.”
The only region of Ukraine in which the majority did not vote for Vladimir Zelensky was Lviv region and adjoining areas of old Galicia. There, if Freeland, who has tried but failed to challenge Trudeau for the Canadian prime ministry, were to run for election, she would be the favourite to be President of Galicia.
Countrywide, Zelensky defeated the incumbent president Petro Poroshenko by 73% to 24%, with a turnout averaging 62%. The only exception was the city of Lviv and the Lviv region, where Poroshenko scored 63% to Zelensky’s 34%, with turnout of more than 67%.
In the east of the country, Zelensky won with more than 80% of the votes – 87% in Donestk, 89% in Lugansk, and 87% in Odessa. The New York Times reported this geographic distribution as Zelensky’s “triumph in every region, except for the area around the city of Lviv, a center of Ukrainian culture and nationalism in the west of the country.”
In the first presidential round on March 31, the regional map also confirms the German-period loyalties of the Galician voters. At that time they profited from the Frank administration’s liquidation of the Jewish population; Chomiak and his family benefited directly with car, apartment, valuables, and publishing assets confiscated from Jews; for details, read this. The Galicians still cannot bring themselves to vote for Zelensky, who is Jewish.
Freeland keeps an apartment with her sister on Maidan Square, in Kiev (undeclaredin her parliamentary asset filings). She has led the political effort in Ottawa to deliver more than a half-billion dollars in Canadian government loans and grants, trade subsidies, and military supplies to Poroshenko’s administration. She has also been instrumental in basing a Canadian military group in the Galician region at Starychi, 40 kilometres northwest of Lviv city. The commander of the Canadian base at Starychi, the general commanding the Canadian Army, and the Canadian ambassador in Kiev have all been Galicians; read their details. Ottawa calls the Canadian military programme in Galicia Operation UNIFIER.
After trying to conceal the war and post-war record of her grandfather, Freeland and her supporters in the Canadian press blamed Russia for leaking details of the story. In fact, the records came from Ukrainian historians and Ukrainian-Canadians in Freeland’s family; Polish police records; archives of the Jewish communities of Lviv and Cracow; and American Army records for the time Chomiak lived in Bavaria and began his work as a US spy. For the archive on Chomiak and Freeland’s record, read this.
Jewish community organizations in Canada have been reluctant to criticize Freeland for her cover-up of the Chomiak story and for the anti-semitism of the current Galician groups, both in Canada and Ukraine. This led to acrimonious debate in the Canadian Jewish press; for more, read this. Jewish voters continue to back Trudeau, Freeland and the Liberal Party for re-election when the federal parliamentary ballot is called in six months’ time, on October 21.
More numerous and powerful, however, than the Ukrainian and Jewish voters are the French in Quebec. In that province Trudeau remains strong enough politically to assure that the Liberals, in alliance with the Bloc Québécois, will continue in power after October 21. Canadian analysts acknowledge that Freeland, who represents a riding in Toronto, Ontario, has no comparable support herself in Quebec.
Last week, this was the political balance of forces across Canada, based on the results of multiple polling organizations:
On this projection, the importance of the Quebec vote to the survival of the Liberal Party in government is clear. If he and his party end up short of the Conservative Party vote, Prime Minister Trudeau could still form a coalition with the New Democratic Party, the Quebec Bloc and the Greens, giving Trudeau a comfortable majority over the Conservatives of 37. Source: https://www.calculatedpolitics.com/
The importance of Quebec to Trudeau is that it is the second largest province in the House of Commons, with 78 members of parliament compared to Ontario’s 121. As the tabulation indicates, the prairie provinces and British Columbia send 104 MPs to Ottawa. The Atlantic provinces account for just 32.
Distribution of the House of Commons by province at the last federal election, 2015. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/
Look at the region by region breakdown of voter support between the parties, and here’s how the geography plays into Trudeau’s hands, not Freeland’s.
Freeland’s ambition for the prime ministry was first reported in January 2017. As foreign minister she has capitalized on the frequent press opportunities this has allowed to promote herself to voters. The name recognition that has resulted has made her one of the most recognized of Trudeau’s ministers.
Her lack of success in capitalizing on Trudeau’s decline in the personal approval ratings and in the straw vote polls was reported here.
Trudeau’s decline has accelerated since February. The resignations of two of Trudeau’s ministers – in February Attorney-General Jody Wilson-Raybould(Vancouver, British Columbia); in March Treasury Board President Jane Philpott(Toronto, Ontario) — triggered media speculation of a deeper loss of confidence in Trudeau’s leadership. The Conservative leader Andrew Scheer (Saskatchewan) said Philpott’s resignation demonstrated that Trudeau had “lost the moral authority to govern. Today, a senior member of his inner circle has come to the same conclusion. Jane Philpott’s resignation from cabinet clearly demonstrates a government in total chaos, led by a disgraced prime minister consumed with scandal and focused only on his political survival.”
The alleged scandal involved Wilson-Raybould’s refusal to accept an out-of-court settlement of foreign bribery charges against SNC Lavalin, a Montreal-based engineering corporation. She defied Trudeau’s and his government’s policy and insisted on a criminal prosecution of the corporation; that move threatened to disqualify SNC-Lavalin from federal contracts and thousands of jobs in Quebec. Wilson-Raybould accused Trudeau of improper interference in the legal proceeding; Philpott joined her; Scheer jumped on their bandwagon. The majority of eastern Canadian voters, starting in Quebec, saw the issue as a political contest in the run-up to the election; in western Canada, voters took their cue from the Conservatives.
Secret canvassing by Liberal MPs to promote Freeland to replace the prime minister in time to run the election campaign has not been acknowledged in public. The Liberal parliamentary caucus united around the prime minister, and on April 2 Wilson-Raybould and Philpott were expelled from the caucus. Freeland had already travelled to a Montreal suburb to tell Quebec voters she was remaining loyal to Trudeau.
In her Quebec fealty speech, Freeland pitched her support for Trudeau on the basis that he supports her as a ‘feminist’ and as a ‘working mother’. Source: https://montrealgazette.com/
The press in Quebec and Quebec politicians had already rallied around SNC Lavalin and Trudeau. French-speaking journalists dismissed the claim that the two resignations signified Trudeau was “anti-feminist”. Melanie Joly (Quebec), minister for Francophonie, told the Journal de Montréal on April 3 that Wilson-Raybould and Philpott had started a “false debate” over Trudeau’s commitment to women voters. “Loyalty,” Joly told the newspaper, “is not an affair for a man or a woman. When one is a member of a team and when one must be able to rely on our colleagues who comprise that team, confidence is important.”
The leading French newspaper followed on April 5 with an opinion piece strongly endorsing Trudeau, and accusing Wilson-Raybould and Philpott of playing a “very bad vaudeville”.
A Toronto political analyst says that right now Freeland has counted the votes and decided “she is a fervent Trudeau loyalist. To that extent she rises or falls with him on the present trajectory. I don’t see her having much political traction without him generally, and certainly not in Quebec. The ‘feminist foreign policy’ brand has become a bit tired, frankly. It’s an automatic claim all Canadian politicians make in any case.”
Note: In the lead photograph, in left foreground, Hans Frank, the Governor-General of German-occupied Galicia, which he ran from Cracow from 1939 to 1944. He was captured in Bavaria by US forces and tried at Nuremberg between November 1945 and October 1946. Found guilty of murdering Jews and Poles, Frank was hanged on October 16, 1946. Chrystia Freeland was born in Alberta, Canada, on August 2, 1968.