Greg Weston: Can the Liberals really snag Mark Carney for leader?
The Bank of Canada governor is being heavily wooed, but is he ready to give up saving the world economy?
A group of influential federal Liberals is trying to convince Mark Carney to quit his job as the governor of the Bank of Canada to run for the leadership of their party. Seriously.
So far, Carney, who is something of an international economic superstar, hasn't publicly shown any interest in the proposition, but behind closed doors, apparently, he isn't giving a decisive No either.
Social media sites promoting a "draft Carney" movement have popped up on Facebook and Twitter in recent weeks, and Liberal circles have been rife with rumours of his possible candidacy for months.
That Carney would generate so much ado about potentially nothing shouldn't surprise anyone.
At 48, he is whip-smart, handsome, media-savvy, bilingual and thoroughly engaging with a self-deprecating humor.
He can also claim roots across the country: He was born in the Northwest Territories, grew up In Edmonton, and has spent much of his working life in Ontario.
More than anything, though, at a time when the economy continues to dominate Canadian politics, the Harvard-educated economist is seen as one of the world's most respected central bankers, widely credited with helping to steer Canada through the 2008 crash and back to relative prosperity.
In 2010, Time Magazine named Carney one of the world's 100 most influential people. And he recently became the first central bank governor to address a convention of the Canadian Autoworkers union and received standing ovations at both ends of his speech.
Carney now splits his time between running the Bank of Canada and heading the Swiss-based Financial Stability Board, which is charged with overhauling the international banking system to try to prevent another global crisis.
In short, Carney could well be the Liberals' dream candidate — and Stephen Harper's worst nightmare.
Why do it?
The past two election campaigns have turned in part on the Conservative message that in these times of economic turbulence, the country needs a steady hand on the tiller.
On that issue, successive Liberal leaders Stéphane Dion and Michael Ignatieff were found wanting.
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But how could the Conservatives campaign seriously against someone who has been one of those steady hands?
If anything about Carney's possible candidacy is giving some Liberals pause, it is not so much whether he will run for the leadership, but why on Earth he would even think about it.
Pollster Nik Nanos says Canadian voters are likely to have similar concerns, and that Carney's biggest challenge in entering politics may be explaining his motives for doing it.
Carney has two years left in his terms as both bank governor and head of the international banking reform board.
He would then still be only 50, and the world of international finance and rich corporate directorships would be virtually his for the picking.
Why would he walk away from all that for a chance to become Liberal leader and perhaps some day prime minister?
Now or never
A number of people who know him well say the proposition isn't all that out of the question.
They point out that Carney already left a super-lucrative career at the upper echelons of the Wall Street investment giant Goldman Sachs to join the Canadian public service in 2003, first as deputy governor of the Bank of Canada, then as associate deputy minister of finance. (He wasn't made bank governor until 2008.)
One friend says of Carney: "He comes from a public service ethic — his dad was a school teacher and professor — and he [Mark] honestly likes public service."
Of course, if Carney does decide to give up saving the world for a chance to rescue the Liberal party, he will have to actually run for the leadership — and spend the next three years of his life on the rubber chicken circuit waiting for an election call.
Justin Trudeau is expected to announce his candidacy next week, and at least four others are seriously testing the waters for support and money.
Trudeau has the ability to mount a ferocious grass-roots campaign, fuelled by social media — he has 150,000 followers on Twitter alone — and his own charismatic attraction.
Liberal strategists I spoke to this week seem to agree on two things: If Carney decides to run, he will be a formidable candidate, and he can't wait much longer to begin organizing.
Will the Liberals get their dream candidate to lead them from the electoral wilderness? Or are they just plain dreaming?