As the launch of the Liberal Party of Canada's leadership race gets ready for takeoff with the anticipated official entry of Justin Trudeau next week, the rumour mill is running wild.
Greg Weston, the CBC's National Affairs Specialist, reported on Thursday that some "influential" Liberals are attempting to persuade Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney to enter the race. If this reporting is accurate, I say to them: Good luck with that!
I have trouble imagining why would Carney even consider doing this. He is at the summit of the global central banking world. He is highly respected and influential from Washington to London to Beijing and everywhere in between. He can literally write his own ticket in the financial, business, academic, and global governance world. Carney obviously doesn't need a job, and taking on the Liberal leadership, today the third party in the House of Commons, would be, to be put it delicately, a step or two down in stature and influence.
But let's say these "influential Liberals" aren't totally delusional and Carney can indeed be convinced to run. If that were the case, it would be a noble and remarkably selfless expression of his commitment to service to his country. A genuine thirst and calling for public service can be the only reason why Carney would even consider doing this. And if that is even remotely the case, then Mark Carney has a duty and responsibility to run.
I have written at length about how badly Canadian democracy needs people of real accomplishment and experience to stand for office. Carney would be a star, a genuine celebrity, and one with real substance and experience behind him.
A decade ago my partner and I acquired a large forest products company in Northwest British Columbia. We bought it out of bankruptcy protection from the B.C. Government. It was shutdown and the business model broken. To raise the $100 million we needed to restart it, we had to fix it. As chief executive officer, that was one of my main tasks and it wasn't easy. At the same time, George Petty and I had been scouring the planet in search of financing.
One morning, my assistant came into my office to tell me that a partner from Goldman Sachs was on the line and wanted to arrange an appointment to meet me. It was a guy I had never heard of. I took the call and we agreed to meet in my office the following week. It was Mark Carney.
We spent well over an hour together. I told him our story in detail -- he wanted to understand what we were doing and how we were doing it. At the end of the meeting, Mark said: "I admire what you are doing and your entrepreneurship. Canada needs more people like you. What you are trying to do to resurrect this company is good for Canada. I want to try to help you."
I have met a lot of investment bankers, but this was the very first -- and last -- time one came close to saying something like that to me. I was genuinely touched and moved. Carney understood what we were going through, the risks we were taking, and the importance of our success to the economy. I was incredibly impressed and his encouragement and support made an indelible and lasting impression on me.
Unfortunately for my company and me, a short time later Carney accepted an appointment as Associate Deputy Minister of Finance in Ottawa. My loss, however, was Canada's gain. He distinguished himself in his new role very quickly, and to Stephen Harper's credit, was appointed a couple of years later as Governor of the Bank of Canada.
In 2009, I was part of a small delegation of business people that visited him for a private discussion in the Bank of Canada boardroom. It was a wide-ranging conversation, and Carney did not disappoint. All of us left feeling good that there is a steady and capable hand on the tiller of the central bank at such a crucial time.
Since Paul Martin's retirement, one of the greatest weaknesses of the Liberal Party of Canada has been a lack of leadership depth and experience in the one area that trumps them all -- the economy.
Carney is a westerner, bilingual, young, attractive, articulate, and has real-world experience. He knows better than most how the wheels of the economy turn, His beginnings are humble. He made it on his own through his tenacity and brains. And while he is a smooth and sophisticated operator, he is the furthest thing you can imagine from the cynical, ambitious, fame-seeking politicians we have become all too accustomed to in Canada.
When it comes to the future of the Liberal Party, I am not a seeker of silver bullets. But leaders do matter a great deal. And I believe in talent and the power of ideas. Carney has both. This guy would be a game-changer in all the right ways, not only for the Liberal Party, but also for Canadian democracy. A person of Carney's calibre would attract others like him to stand for office. His participation would raise the bar in the House of Commons and raise the game of all parliamentarians.
So if there is any basis to the speculation that Liberals and other Canadians are calling on Mark Carney to enter the public arena by seeking the leadership of the party, count me among them. If he's in, so am I. With bells on.
The country needs him -- and people like him -- in our House of Commons. And we need them fast!