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Former TD Bank chief economist Don Drummond expects Tiff Macklem, left, to follow Mark Carney, right, as Bank of Canada Governor. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Former TD Bank chief economist Don Drummond expects Tiff Macklem, left, to follow Mark Carney, right, as Bank of Canada Governor. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Macklem’s bank shot: The race to take over from Mark Carney Add to ...

Neither man can match Mr. Macklem’s experience as a practitioner, nor do they have any experience managing a large institution, as Mr. Macklem has been doing for more than two years. The senior deputy governor at the Bank of Canada serves much the same function that a chief operating officer at a corporation.

Stephen Poloz, the president of Export Development Canada, is perhaps the most serious contender not named Tiff Macklem.

It’s an open secret in Ottawa that Mr. Poloz, 57, covets a chance to lead the central bank, where he worked for 14 years in the 1980s and 1990s. (Through EDC’s spokesman, Mr. Poloz declined to comment on whether he now is pursuing the job.)

His management experience is similar to that of Mr. Macklem: Mr. Poloz has run EDC, an institution of 1,100 people, since January, 2011, while Mr. Macklem has handled day-to-day management of the Bank of Canada’s 1,200 people for almost a year longer.

The two men also have remarkably similar pedigrees. Both studied at Queen’s in Kingston, Ont., and both earned their PhDs in economics at the University of Western Ontario in London. Mr. Poloz briefly supervised Mr. Macklem when their tenures at the Bank of Canada overlapped in the 1980s.

“He’s a very able guy,” William Robson, president the C.D. Howe Institute, a Toronto-based think tank, says of Mr. Poloz. “If the search committee goes outside the Bank of Canada, he’s on the top of the list of outsiders.”

 

The demands of central banking

Yet the qualifications of Messrs. Macklem and Poloz diverge on what has become a central element of setting policy at a major central bank.

When Mr. Poloz was last at the Bank of Canada, the business of central banking was seen as relatively simple. You plugged the latest economic indicators into your economic models, applied a little judgment and then raised or lowered the benchmark interest rate.

“Central banking, a few years ago, the only thing you had to do was cut or raise interest rates every four weeks,” the ECB’s Mr. Asmussen says, only half-jokingly. “Central banks have a much broader range of tasks now, whether they like it or not.”

Charting a path back to a more normal interest rate setting after an exceptionally long period of ultra-low borrowing costs will be the primary task of the next Bank of Canada governor.

But that mission will involve more than simply keeping an eye on prices. The crisis revealed that international financial markets must also be tamed.

“The financial stability wing of the central bank has become more important than it was before,” says Charles Freedman, a former deputy governor who retired in 2003. “Twenty or 30 years ago, that work was essentially done by only a few of us. There are whole departments devoted to it now.”

Unlike Mr. Carney, Mr. Macklem has no direct experience in banking. Otherwise, he’s had the best training money can buy.

When he was at Finance as associate deputy minister, Mr. Macklem teamed up with Mr. Carney to sort out the collapse of Canada’s market for asset-backed commercial paper in 2007, and as the top international economic official at Finance, he became deeply involved in the Group of 20’s response to the crisis.

“He has always been a first-rate performer in being able to contribute to meetings,” says Mike Callaghan, the top international official at the Australian Treasury during the crisis. “If Tiff got involved, and when Tiff came to speak, everyone would listen. We knew it was going to be a very substantive contribution. He has a great capacity to pull things together.”

For such an overwhelming favourite, Mr. Macklem has a remarkably low public profile. Mr. Boothe, the official who teamed with Mr. Macklem on the auto rescue and who is now a professor at the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, says his former colleague is better known abroad than he is at home.

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