Mark Carney is publicly rejecting the notion that he has politicized the Bank of Canada governorship by conversing with Liberals courting him for leader or spending a week-long vacation at party stalwart Scott Brison’s seaside home.
“I can’t control what people ask of me,” he told a news conference on Wednesday, speaking about entreaties last year from Liberals to run for the leadership of their party.
It was Mr. Carney’s first public comments on the topic since news broke in mid-December that he and his family vacationed at the Liberal finance critic’s Nova Scotia dwelling last summer – a visit that took place even as party members tried to persuade him he had a shot at becoming prime minister.
“I can control what I do. And very clearly, I didn’t pursue, I haven’t entered, politics. I’m a lifelong central banker,” he said, before correcting himself and noting his recent appointment as head of the Bank of England will last only half a decade.
“Hopefully, my life’s a little longer than five years,” said Mr. Carney, who will be 53 in 2018, when he has said he plans to leave the London post and return to Canada. That’s relatively young for a senior public office holder; Prime Minister Stephen Harper is 53.
The governor is expected to face questions on the matter from British Parliamentarians next month during a preappointment hearing for his new U.K. job. Some Conservative MPs have suggested they would like to grill him over his political ambitions and leanings.
The Globe and Mail reported in December that federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty was privately disappointed and concerned about Mr. Carney’s conduct.
The Bank of Canada has developed an operational independence that is the envy of most of the world. But that independence rests largely on an understanding that there is a line between the management of monetary policy and politics that neither the governor nor the finance minister should cross.
Bill Robson, CEO of the C.D. Howe Institute, warned in December that Mr. Carney’s actions could put the bank in tricky territory.
The central banker said he reflected on the matter and remains confident he did nothing wrong by accepting Mr. Brison’s hospitality.
“I was thinking about this over the holidays. I understand a few people had questions about it and I respect those questions, but in the end, the actions were appropriate,” he told reporters.
Mr. Carney, who’s never shied away from the spotlight, adamantly refused to discuss the holiday stay and would not say whether it was the first time he and his family had vacationed with an MP.
“What we’re talking about is my private life, my private vacation, and I don’t see that I need to detail my private life and my interaction with my friends.”
Mr. Carney said the bank cleared him after independent scrutiny. “[My actions have] been looked at by the general counsel of the bank, in consultation with the independent lead director of the board of directors of the bank, and they came to the exact same conclusions,” he said.
The central banker devoted considerable effort late last summer to repudiating the theory – advanced by NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, among others – that a high dollar propelled by energy exports is killing manufacturing jobs. But on Wednesday, Mr. Carney dismissed the notion that his debunking of the “Dutch disease” theory was a politically motivated attack on major rival of the Liberal Party.
He said the role of commodities in the Canadian economy is a “fundamental issue” and that makes sense for the Bank to address.
“In discharging my responsibilities as the Governor of the Bank of Canada, it’s all out in the open, it’s on the public record,” he said at the news conference. “And I stand by everything that I have done over the course of my term.”