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Illustration of Mark Carney, Bank of Canada Governor and chairman of Financial Stability Board. (Anthony Jenkins for The Globe and Mail/Anthony Jenkins for The Globe and Mail)
Illustration of Mark Carney, Bank of Canada Governor and chairman of Financial Stability Board. (Anthony Jenkins for The Globe and Mail/Anthony Jenkins for The Globe and Mail)

THE LUNCH

Mark Carney: A common touch, an uncommon task Add to ...

The Governor of the Bank of Canada is standing in line at a burger joint just east of downtown Ottawa, a chain that bills itself as gourmet but is as much a haven for families as foodies.

Wearing a pin-striped suit and a widely knotted tie, flanked by an assistant and a reporter, a former Goldman Sachs banker like Mark Carney might seem out of place in a restaurant that counts “The Crappy Tire” and “Not So Thin Lizzy” among its menu offerings. But The Works is a go-to spot for him, a favourite with his wife and four young daughters. He gestures toward an area of picnic-table seating, half-enclosed by a chain-link fence. “Usually, we sit in the cage,” he says.

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Mr. Carney is in a jovial mood this mild December day, ready for his last formal interview of an exhilarating, but exhausting, year. He gained international notice in 2008, after making some gutsy, ahead-of-the-curve moves that would help to minimize Canada’s pain in the worst global recession since the Great Depression. But it was in 2011 that he became an indispensable force in the charge to ensure the mistakes that got the world into such a mess are never repeated.

His choice of eatery is, like so much of what he does during the workweek, calculated. For a man whose life is increasingly lived in airports and foreign hotels, now that he also runs a global organization, the Financial Stability Board, there’s comfort in dining at a place so familiar.

Going for burgers and Diet Coke also fits the improbable everyman image some ascribe to Mr. Carney, at a time when a Goldman résumé arouses suspicion among large segments of the public. At times it seems he is at pains to ensure he doesn’t look like an elitist: The Globe had proposed meeting at a sushi bar, but according to his spokesman, Mr. Carney rejected the idea as “pretentious.”

Like all central bankers, he has been known to pepper his speeches with head-scratching language best understood by fellow Oxford PhDs. But he has also become known for the kind of blunt, street-level comments that technocratic, moneyed men with cufflinks rarely utter, such as when he endorsed the Occupy Wall Street movement.

On weekends, when he is not in Basel, Switzerland, at meetings of the FSB, he helps his wife, Diana, shuttle their four girls around to choir, piano practice, hockey and speed-skating. And he does so in his own car, instead of the chauffeured Chrysler 300 he uses for work. He describes it as “one of the joys” of living in a low-key capital like Ottawa. Clearly, he relishes chances to indulge his “ordinary” side, as much as he loves his work.

“It’s much more relaxing to do family stuff,” he says between bites of the “Roughriders Comeback” – an elk burger with bacon and caramelized onions. The health-conscious Mr. Carney is eating with a knife and fork after removing the top of his whole-wheat bun. “Unfortunately, it’s more relaxing because it’s not as usual as it should be,” he continues.

Travel prevents the former backup goalie for Harvard University (and lifelong Edmonton Oilers’ fan) from playing as much hockey as he’d like, but he still plays net in the odd pickup game at a local rink, and in the central bank’s annual tournament. But while Mr. Carney is in many ways a typical, 46-year-old, hockey-playing Canadian dad, he is of course anything but ordinary.

The location of the lunch spot coincidentally illustrates the two sides of Mark Carney – the boy from Fort Smith, NWT, via Edmonton who went on to earn millions rubbing shoulders with banking titans in Tokyo, London and New York, become a top policy maker, and find his name listed among Time’s 100 most influential people.

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