Mark Carney has been back in the news, making very progressive speeches, throwing zingers at Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre – jabs to the effect that Mr. Poilievre’s populist brand breaks societies rather than builds them up, as exemplified by Trumpism in the United States and Brexit in Britain.
The heightened activity has set off a buzz again about whether Mr. Carney will take the plunge into politics. Political parties rarely attract star candidates any more. Men and women of private-sector stature stay away. Why risk reputational ruin in Ottawa’s cauldron of malice?
In keeping, Canada has come to be led by a series of career politicians: Jean Chrétien, Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau, Mr. Poilievre. They have strengths but, immersed in political trench warfare their whole lives, they are seized by a pack-animal mentality. “They lack the ability,” writes public administration scholar Donald Savoie, “to test policy prescriptions with experience outside politics.”
Which makes the case of Mr. Carney, the former head of the Bank of England and the Bank of Canada, and the former associate deputy minister of finance, all the more intriguing.
Should he run for the Liberals, which is starting to appear likely, he will be the biggest star-candidate catch any political party has made in a long time.
For the flagging, sagging Liberals, what a boon he could be. The economy is the dominant issue and is there anyone better schooled in finance than Mr. Carney? He would be a source of economic credibility for the party and could help restore its reputation on the world stage. He would signal a changing of the guard that the party sorely needs.
Given all the buzz, I put the question to him on whether he was at all interested in running for the Liberals in the next election. He didn’t respond. If he wasn’t interested, he could have said so.
He is being advised by a top Liberal strategist and more revealing is what this strategist says. He told me Wednesday that he thinks Mr. Carney will run for a seat in the next election for sure.
That will come as a surprise to many who think he wouldn’t be prepared to serve under Mr. Trudeau. Rather, that he would only make the leap if the party rolled out the red carpet for him with a very favourable path to the leadership.
But if the strategist is correct, Mr. Carney looks to be prepared – if Mr. Trudeau holds on to power – to serve as finance minister.
The 58-year-old native of the Northwest Territories is currently making many millions as chair of Brookfield Asset Management and Bloomberg LP. As well, he is the UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance. He has power, wealth, comfort. If he is ready to pass on all those positions and that income for the sake of public service and its attendant risks, all the more credit to him.
We can bet he will be pilloried by right-siders as a World Economic Forum elitist, a baron of the boardrooms, a hard-left environmentalist.
U.S. Republican strategist Doug Heye put it well when he said politics has become a game “in which you get the championship belt by the number of punches you throw, not the number you land.”
Bill Morneau came in as a star candidate, though not of Mr. Carney’s heights, for the Liberals. But he wasn’t adept at throwing haymakers and got roughed up as finance minister.
Liberals not keen on the big-time banker roll out the comparison to outsider Michael Ignatieff, who ran the party into the ground. But it’s a faulty comparison. Mr. Ignatieff’s experience was in academia. Mr. Carney’s experience, while not as an elected politician, is far more political.
He realizes, it would appear, that if he wants to become leader of the Liberals he must first pay his dues by serving as an elected member, not by making the mistake that Bob Rae did in trying to win the leadership in 2006.
Pedigree does not always pay off in politics. The “best and brightest” are not often suited for it, especially in a populist era. But one’s degree of erudition and experience increases the odds of enlightened work and I suspect Canadians, fed up with pack-animal politics, would welcome the arrival of Mr. Carney, as we would all other men or women of noteworthy accomplishments from the outside.