Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of Canada, took a risk in making a speech to the Canadian Auto Workers on Wednesday, during the sensitive early stages of the contract negotiations between that union and the three American-owned automobile manufacturers. On the whole, he acquitted himself well.
Mr. Carney spoke of the shared responsibility for Canadian prosperity, including his audience's "responsibility to continue to help grow flexible, productive companies that can succeed in a fiercely competitive global marketplace."
In advising CAW members to be flexible and productive, Mr. Carney might possibly have been interpreted as calling upon the employees to make concessions to their employers – and to act upon fears that the manufacturers will pick up and decamp to lower-wage jurisdictions – though no doubt he primarily meant that workers should be open to new techniques of production and continually improving efficiency.
It was fortunate that a question by a Globe and Mail reporter during the ensuing press conference led Mr. Carney to also speak forcefully about the role of employers. "Dead money" should either be put to work productively or else pay out dividends, he argued, rather than languishing as an expression of excessive caution. In other words, some major Canadian companies are doing their bit, through liquidity preference, to slow down economic growth.
In the speech itself, Mr. Carney underlined the responsibility of Canadian companies to "invest to equip and train their workers" so they can offer "the durable, high-manufacturing jobs of the future."
The employees of the Detroit Three in the audience may not have been pleased by Mr. Carney's recurring message that Canada should rely less on exports to the United States, and more on developing economies. But the CAW is a very large union, and many of its members work in the complex supply-chain economy, where there is great opportunity in East Asia and other up-and-coming regions.
This was an unfamiliar forum for Mr. Carney. His didactic but respectful speech communicated a complex but salutary message on how Canada will continue to thrive.