Paging Mark Carney. . . your table is ready
Look, Mark Carney is running. For the House of Commons? Yup. For a cabinet seat? Duh. For the Prime Minister’s Office? Yeah, probably that too.
The man has become ubiquitous: a special advisor to the PM; author of a new book on the economics of climate policy; media panels; and now as a featured speaker at the Liberal Party’s online convention.
Neither he nor anyone else would put themselves through this nonsense if they didn’t intend to seek elected office. It is a tried and true formula – like baking soda and vinegar to make a junior high science fair volcano.
But what’s the plan? Where’s he going to run for a seat? Do Trudeau and his cabal see Carney as a useful counterweight to the ever increasing influence of Deputy PM, Finance Minister and erstwhile frontrunner to replace the PM Chrystia Freeland? Or have they actually become Machiavellian enough to play the two off against each other? Sort of a Martin/Manley/Tobin thing a la Chrétien circa 2000?
Honestly I’ve got no idea. And neither does anyone else spouting off on the teevee or online on the subject. But man, no one loves talking about a palace coup like Liberals, eh!
First of all, while I ultimately worked supported and worked for Paul Martin – and frankly adore him to this day – I have never supported the idea of dethroning a sitting Prime Minister. You win, you keep the job. You lose, well you better hope you and your people have kept your leadership team happy and active. Ultimately that was Chrétien’s fatal mistake – he lost touch with the “grass roots”.
So notwithstanding a long list of criticisms of Mr. Trudeau, his team, his government and his record, were I still an active Liberal partisan I would be absolutely and utterly opposed to any sort of palace intrigues focused on forcing a Trudeau out or creating opportunities for Carney or Freeland to take the reigns.
Keith Davey – the legendary Rainmaker of the Liberal Party – said it best: the worst day in government is better than the best day in opposition so why would you ever jeopardize that?
But sometime not that far down the road Trudeau the Younger will take a walk in the snow or end up on the wrong side of a minority Parliament just like the Old Man. It is as inevitable as freezing rain in Ottawa in March.
So when that happens, what would Carney be offering to Liberals and, eventually, Canada?
His CV is undeniably impressive, global and, well, impressive. He would almost certainly be the most “qualified” outsider to run for senior political office in a generation in Canada (assuming one doesn’t think politics is good experience for seeking political office, as a significant number of people seem to believe).
And having gone abroad to run the Bank of England will be a huge deal to a number of Liberals. I can practically hear the folks who salivated over Ignatieff queuing up at Carney’s door.
But there’s another side to that coin: as my friend Ken Boessenkool keeps pointing out, having a former Governor of the Bank of Canada (let alone England) seek political office is really no different than a former Chief Justice doing so after their term of office.
In doing so, not only would someone endanger the impartiality of their own decisions in this important office but could lead to allegations of partiality being levelled at others holding the office now and in the future.
I’m not sure I agree. As people live longer and longer, clearly we’re going to have careers that change and evolve over time. Can we categorically assert that once one holds a job who’s key feature is political impartiality they are necessarily barred from expressing partisan opinions for the rest of their lives?
Yes, it’s a short list of positions but still seems potentially unreasonable. And if it is going to be a requirement going forward, we better codify it now so that folks taking those gigs know ahead of time.
Anyway, so what would Carney likely bring to a Liberal leadership campaign? In short, Paul Martin’s fiscal creds, Ignatieff’s international celebrity, Scott Brison’s Bay St. connections, Bob Rae’s charm and none of the Trudeau family baggage.
The other thing Carney wouldn’t bring is political experience – ish.
The other side of the coin Boessenkool flags above is that while being governor of a central bank is, and of a right ought to be, inherently non-partisan, it is also necessarily political.
The reason erstwhile politicians making the jump from corporate success almost universally fail to endure (eg, Trump, Kevin O’Leary, John Tory provincially, etc) is that they don’t have the political instincts needed for the job. In fact, the instincts that served them well in business are actually a anathema to those needed in politics: being a team player, a willingness to compromise and an eye on the big picture.
It is reasonable to suspect that Mr. Carney has, in fact, honed those skills in spades.
John Ibbitson has a column this week suggesting that Canada’s political class needs all the talent it can possibly get and therefore Carney should be welcomed with open arms.
I’ve no idea if I would support Carney in any future Libéral leadership race – I’m more of an underdog guy – but Ibbitson is right: any time a serious, accomplished Canadian with new ideas wants to run it’s a win for Canada’s beleaguered political class.
Photo: erogondo, iStock