Stephen Poloz wants the world to know that manipulating the loonie is not in the Bank of Canada's playbook.
Any efforts to orchestrate currency devaluation would destabilize the Canadian economy, Mr. Poloz said Tuesday.
Moving to quash persistent speculation that he has been trying to drive the currency lower to spur exports, the Bank of Canada Governor told a business audience in Drummondville, Que., that central bankers can't set their own interest-rate course if they are simultaneously trying to steer the value of dollar.
"In short, I believe in markets," said Mr. Poloz, who took over from Mark Carney as governor in June, 2013.
"Manipulating or trying to guide them is just not in our game plan."
Mr. Poloz said the bank neither intervenes in currency markets nor engages in "verbal guidance" to steer the dollar, which has fallen nearly eight cents (U.S.) to about the 90-cent level since he took over the central bank, and on Tuesday topped 91 cents.
"Trying to control the loonie is off the table," Mr. Poloz said. "A floating loon is a thing of beauty, and so is a floating loonie."
On the one hand, Mr. Poloz is warning businesses not to look to the Bank of Canada for relief from a high dollar because the level of the currency is in the hands of financial markets.
But he's also signalling to the markets that running an independent monetary policy depends on targeting low inflation, not a cheap dollar. And forging its own path may mean waiting until after the U.S. Federal Reserve starts tightening next year before restoring higher rates in Canada.
"If we were trying to hold the exchange rate unchanged instead of targeting inflation, we would probably need to match U.S. interest rates in lock-step," he said in his speech.
Most economists expect the Bank of Canada to start raising its key overnight interest in mid-to-late-2015. The rate has been fixed at 1 per cent since September, 2010.
"The Bank of Canada is in no hurry to tighten monetary policy and will likely maintain the dovish message for a while longer," National Bank of Canada economists Paul-André Pinsonnault and Krishen Rangasamy said in a research note.
Mr. Poloz reiterated the bank's belief that the long-awaited export recovery has begun in Canada. He pointed out there are now signs that U.S. investment spending is coming back – a typical precursor of higher Canadian exports of such things as machinery, packaging, industrial products and business services.
"All things considered, we are cautiously optimistic about our exporting future," he said. "It looks like the natural sequence we've been hoping for is getting under way."
In July, Canada ran up its largest trade surplus since the Great Recession, $2.6-billion, driven higher by surging exports of cars, forest products and machinery.
Mr. Poloz cautioned that the global economy remains "an uncertain place," and that it would take time for higher exports to persuade companies to invest and hire people. "We've experienced serial disappointment for several years now," he told reporters later.
Mr. Poloz laid out an extensive justification for why the central bank targets inflation, not the dollar, and why a floating currency ultimately benefits the Canadian economy. Trying to keep the dollar lower would trigger unhealthy fluctuations in inflation, unemployment and output, he warned.
He argued that if the bank had intervened to stop the rise of the dollar in the early 2000s, inflation would have shot up to 4 per cent, leaving the country ill-equipped to deal with the fallout from 2008 global financial crisis. The only time the central bank would consider intervening in currency markets would be in the case of a "breakdown in the market," and then only on an emergency basis, according to Mr. Poloz.
A floating currency, he said, acts as a helpful buffer to the "rising and falling tides of the global economy." He acknowledged that the dollar tends to move with commodity prices, particularly oil, but that's a good thing. "When the world economy is strong, commodity prices rise and our currency tends to float up to facilitate the adjustment of our economy," Mr. Poloz said.
A higher dollar also hurts manufacturing exporters by depressing revenues and profits.