Filibuster CartoonsTitle: Life of a Carney
(click to view)Date:
November 26, 2012
In one of the stranger episodes of Canada's political history — if not political history altogether — Canadians awoke Monday morning to learn that the governor of their central bank had been appointed to run England's
. Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney will become the 120th Governor of the Bank of England, said the press release
. "I am honoured to accept" said Governor Carney.
It was a truly bizarre announcement — and not just because it marks the first time in the British bank's 318-year history that they've recruited a foreigner to run the show.
Mark Carney has long been one of Canada's most high-profile political celebrities, and a man almost universally beloved by press and politicians alike. A former Goldman Sachs executive with degrees from Harvard and Oxford, he's long been praised as a leading architect of Canada's fiscal stability in the aftermath of the 2008 global recession, and a role model of sane monetary policy on a planet crippled by economic woe. Cautious and conservative in outlook, his management of the Bank of Canada has been notable mostly for keeping interest rates low in order to spur stimulus spending, while simultaneously dismissing the need for tougher banking regulations than the ones Canada already has. Hardly wild stuff, but that's kind of the point.
Always a popular figure on the global stage, last November, the planet's other leading central bankers elected Carney head of the international Financial Stability Board
, one of the world's leading institutions of the post-Recession financial order. It was an unsubtle nod to just how much of an enviable outlier Canada's economic performance has been in the otherwise troubled west, and a major coup for a nation ordinarily unaccustomed to wielding quite so much capital — both literally and figuratively.
At the same time, however, Carney's talents were hardly unappreciated in Canada, which is why his sudden desire to emigrate has thrown his home nation for such a loop.
Following Liberal leader Bob Rae's resignation last June, Carney was quickly touted as a dream successor for the troubled party, and the excited chatter among pundits
and party insiders
remained loud even after (maybe especially after) Justin Trudeau emerged as the default nominee. Had the Governor agreed to seek the job, he would have almost certainly been the overwhelming establishment favorite, with Trudeau's comparative youth and inexperience suddenly even more undeniable than usual. As a candidate for prime minister, he would have made Stephen Harper sweat.
Carney repeatedly dismissed his own draft movement however, once even making the offhanded (and probably unintentionally Freudian) comment that he may as well become a "circus clown
." I've got a job to do and I intend to finish doing it, he'd repeat over and over.
But now, evidently, that job is no longer worth finishing after all, and Carney is set to abandon his gubernatorial duties with a full two years left in his mandate. His official departure statement
makes no mention of precisely why he agreed to fill the foreign post, to say nothing of why it was in Canada's
interests for him to leave at such a delicate time. One can only presume the BoE gig pays better and stimulates his big brain more, and that's reason enough, it seems.
Uncertain times are often laboratories of political precedent, and Britain's attempt to get their domestic finances in order by poaching another country's head banker is certainly a novel one. Carney's decision to actually go along with it, however, puts a bit of an edge on the whimsy.
If a distinguished public servant can abruptly decide to swap one public for another, what does that say about the patriotism of his profession? If the career path of a nation's top bureaucrat is dictated more by what he finds personally interesting and professional challenging than what his government wants or needs, what does that say about the power of selfish motives on a supposedly selfless calling?
Governor Carney was a man as close to rock-star status as a middle-aged banker from the Northwest Territories can possibly get. Loved by his country to the point where many were demanding he run it, he nevertheless chose to abdicate all national responsibility at the very peak of his prestige in order to begin an almost non-sequitur second career on a distant foreign shore.
It was well within his rights to do so, of course, but still — it would have been nice for the guy to at least express some small twinge of nostalgia or affinity for the country that made his overseas promotion possible in the first place. Instead we got an official statement
that the Governor "intends to apply for British citizenship" as soon as possible.
Carney was a role model for the world, but the world was also the ultimate destination of his loyalty, and the only place able to satiate an ambition larger than any domestic office.
He may have been a great man that came from Canada, but it seems he possessed only marginal interest in being a great Canadian.