Greg Weston: Mark Carney flap much ado about little
It was vintage Mark Carney, the otherwise elusive Bank of Canada governor recently under media attack, blithely popping in for a pint at a capital bistro bar jammed with suddenly slack-jawed parliamentary reporters.
No doubt about it, Canada’s international economic superstar has moxy.
Carney has been the target of recent criticism, mainly by some members of the media here and in the U.K. where he has recently been named the next head of the Bank of England.
The fuss centres around reports he gave more than a second’s thought to entreaties by prominent federal Liberals to run for their party leadership next April.
The bank governor’s position is necessarily apolitical, and this being a slow news week without Parliament in session, some reporters have apparently been after Carney with much determination and little success.
Imagine their surprise when he suddenly showed up in their midst at the pub Wednesday evening – smiling, charming and chatting ale-in-hand, acting as though Santa Claus was the only thing on his mind.
Many of the journalists happily used Carney’s rare public appearance to chat up the charismatic central banker who, among other things, is also heading a Swiss-based organization reforming the global financial system.
Others simply admired him for showing up, a boy scout at a skunks’ picnic.
Carney left after a couple of hours without saying anything newsworthy. But even that garnered him more coverage.
In some ways, Carney has likely been a victim of his own success.
At 47, he is smart, handsome, charismatic and remarkably accomplished, widely credited with having helped to guide Canada through the economic crash and the stormy seas that followed.
He has the rare ability to wow a room full of the world’s top bankers, charm a group of journalists, and get a standing ovation at an auto workers’ union convention.
He also gives good television, and is equally engaging on and off the air.
In short, Carney has the potential to be one of Canada’s most formidable political leaders.
Little wonder a group of prominent Liberals went courting him earlier this year.
So, apparently, did some Conservatives.
In the end, Carney said no to both Liberals and Conservatives, and instead has taken a powerful and prestigious job as head of the Bank of England.
If he is guilty of anything in all this, it may be privately pondering his political propositions too long, and publicly playing a bit too coy about his intentions.
CBC News first heard rumours last summer about Liberals courting Carney. (We only heard recently that Conservatives had done the same.)
The story took us weeks to develop, not so much to check out the perfectly logical story that a group of Liberals was after Carney, but to confirm whether he had the slightest interest in leaving one of the country’s top jobs, two years before the end of his term, to head a third-place political party in disarray.
One of the early indications the rumours might be true was Carney’s reaction to them.
Our repeated attempts to speak to him on the issue were refused, and he was evasive with others who did manage to ask about him maybe running for political office.
If he weren’t considering it, why wouldn’t he say so and kill the rumours?
Finally confident that our research and sources had confirmed the story, we reported at the end of September that a group of prominent Liberals was wooing Carney to run for the party’s leadership – and he wasn’t saying no.
Not long after, the whole issue of Carney’s political aspirations – or lack thereof – became somewhat academic with the sudden announcement he would be moving to London next June to head the Bank of England.
Last weekend, the Globe and Mail ran an interesting piece, adding some details of the Liberals’ courtship of Carney.
The newspaper reported Carney and his family stayed for a few days of summer holidays at the Nova Scotia home of Liberal MP and finance critic, Scott Brison.
Brison and Carney are both former investment bankers, and their personal friendship dates back more than a decade.
No matter. The Carney family’s holiday stay with a Liberal MP seemed to light a fire under the story, and caused the bank governor some early Christmas indigestion this week.
One British newspaper warned Carney to leave his politics at home when he takes over the central bank in that country.
Carney has done nothing illegal, nor is there evidence any rules have been broken.
There is absolutely nothing to suggest his performance at the bank has been influenced by partisan political considerations of any party.
On the contrary, he remains one of the most respected economic and banking voices anywhere, the person the international community chose to bring law, order and accountability to the global financial system.
Perhaps most telling of all is the almost complete absence of political reaction to the Carney story. No party is touching it.
The one person in government who most relies on the bank governor for clear-headed advice untainted by political considerations or influence, is Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.
Flaherty comments on just about everything he is asked, but he’s not saying a word about Carney.
Nor is the prime minister. Nor are any of the opposition parties.
If nothing else, so much ado about so little of consequence may help to explain why so many of Canada’s best and brightest won’t run for political office.
For now at least, Mark Carney is one of them.