Justin Trudeau may be getting all the buzz surrounding the Liberal leadership race, but a campaign evidently started by a Liberal party activist is pushing another candidate with a very different kind of star power: Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of Canada who has a reputation for taking populist positions sometimes at odds with the country’s business elite.
The central banker who called the Occupy Wall Street movement “constructive” and castigated Canadian corporations for hoarding cash now has a Facebook page urging him to run for the Liberal crown.
The page, called “Draft Mark Carney for Liberal Leader”, was evidently launched by a Liberal party activist impressed by Carney's track record.
“Why not Mark Carney?” the activist asked in correspondence with The Huffington Post Canada. “Successful, from western Canada, bilingual, educated, tasked with saving the world’s financial system. A company seeks to hire the best person for a job ... And that’s in a nutshell what I thought the Liberal Party should be doing.”
By “tasked with saving the world’s financial system,” the anonymous activist was referring to Carney’s appointment to the head of the Financial Stability Board, an international body set up by the G20 in 2009 to monitor and make recommendations about the global financial system.
The appointment is a sign of the respect the 47-year-old ex-Goldman Sachs banker gets around the world. Canada’s relatively impressive (if by no means perfect) economic performance in the wake of the global financial crisis has helped make Carney a star in financial circles, so much so that rumours have been swirling he'll be poached by the Bank of England. (Carney denies this.)
On Thursday the Bank of Canada tried to quash speculation about a Carney Liberal leadership bid, pointing to an article from the spring in which he denied having any political ambitions. But Carney’s often unusual (for a central banker) and seemingly populist statements in public have prompted many to speculate he may have ambitions beyond being the country’s top banker.
“Hectoring consumers and corporations has become something of a Carney trademark,” the National Post’s Terence Corcoran wrote last spring. “Canadians — as consumers and bankers — have been warned again and again not to go too far in taking advantage of low mortgage interest rates. Bankers have been lectured on their risk-taking. Corporations and executives are instructed on how to run their businesses.”
The activist behind the Draft Carney Facebook page says it was the banker’s recent speech to the Canadian Auto Workers union that convinced them Carney is the right person to lead the Liberals.
In an unprecedented move for a Bank of Canada governor, Carney spoke before one of Canada’s largest unions on the contentious issue of Dutch Disease — the hotly-contested phenomenon of Canada’s manufacturing base being eroded by an overly high dollar.
Though Carney told the CAW that a high dollar “is not the most important reason” for the decline of manufacturing (something the CAW likely didn’t want to hear), the very act of talking directly to a union impressed many.
“A guy who you would not expect to engage with a union showed up and spoke honestly to them about the future. Bingo! That crystallized it for me,” said the anonymous Liberal activist. “The country needs less partisanship and more focus on our collective futures. Harper governs only for his own pool of voters, and we are worse off for that approach.”
A “Draft Carney” campaign puts the central bank chief in a tough position, as he is expected to maintain a distance between politics and central bank policy. Carney will likely disavow any interest in the leadership of the Liberal party.
But once his term as BoC head is over — it could be a completely different story.
-- With a report from The Canadian Press
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Bob Rae, Michael Ignatieff and Stephane Dion "liked" the Draft Mark Carney Facebook page. In fact, the Facebook page "liked" those individuals. The Huffington Post regrets the error.