‘Slap in the face’: Freeland’s Disney Plus comment made her a villain, records show

Once upon a time, Chrystia Freeland tried to connect Canadians’ worries about the cost of living with a personal anecdote — and it didn’t produce a fairytale ending.

“As a mother and wife, I personally go through my credit card statement once a month, and last Sunday I said to the kids, ‘You guys are grown up now. You don’t watch Disney anymore. Let’s cut the Disney Plus subscription,'” Freeland told Global News in an interview that aired on November 6.

“I think I need to take the exact same approach to the federal government’s finances because that’s Canadian money,” she continued.

Perhaps Freeland was trying to show that managing a $430 billion budget isn’t all that different from handling a household budget.

But as the video spread across the country and was viewed nearly a million times in just a few days, so did the outrage.

Emails sent to her office and obtained by the Canadian Press under access to information laws suggest that Freeland’s attempts to connect with Canadians made her a villain by the thousands.

“This advice is as smart as baby boomers telling young people they can afford a house as long as they don’t eat avocado toast,” one person said. The sender’s name was redacted from the file.

Some commenters felt the minister’s attempt to fit in fell short of the mark, like Princess Jasmine visiting the market in “Aladdin” and encountering a less-than-royal way of life.

The message accused Freeland of being “smug,” “elitist,” “ignorant,” and “entitled.”

One accused her of underestimating the platform’s offerings. “There’s not only Disney movies on Disney Plus, so you’re effectively depriving your kids of something their friends might watch.”

Freeland did it “at a time when we all know you can easily afford it,” the person added.

Federal cabinet ministers will earn more than $289,000 this year. According to Statistics Canada, the median household income in Ontario was $79,500 in 2020.

Someone wrote in to say they had cut Disney Plus and wanted to know how to “remove my CBC subsidy portion”. The $1.2 billion in government funding provided by the CBC in 2022 is equivalent to about $30 per Canadian per year.

Others were less sarcastic, noting that “poverty is not an option.”

An email urged the government to better manage inflation.

“If you don’t know how I do it, may I humbly suggest that your office consider a more aggressive approach to policing skyrocketing profits in the grocery industry?”

Another writer, who describes herself as a disabled single mother, said she sometimes skips food to make sure her 10-year-old son doesn’t.

“This is an absolute slap in the face for someone who is really struggling,” she wrote.

“Like I tell my son: You need to think before you speak.”

A quasi-knight in shining armor did come to Freeland’s defense, saying via email that they also cut off TV channels — and beauty, travel and cellphones, among other things.

They argue: “Inflation means a lifestyle change is necessary!”

On Nov. 7, the second day of Freeland’s series of interviews about the fall economic statement, Treasury staffers took a look at social media.

In two days, Freeland and Disney Plus were mentioned 13,000 times, and “coverage was mostly negative,” an official in charge of media monitoring wrote in an email.

A word cloud attached to the email shows the phrases “tone-deaf” and “high inflation.”

Freeland walked back her words the next day, telling reporters, “Like other elected federal leaders, I get paid a very good salary and I know that puts me in a very, very strong position.”

Her office did not respond to questions this week about the feedback she had received, referring instead to comments she made at a Nov. 7 news conference.

—Sarah Rich, Canadian Press

federal politics

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *