05/02/2013 12:21 EDT | Updated 07/02/2013 05:12 EDT

Does the Governor of the Bank of Canada Have to Be Canadian?


By all accounts, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is on the verge of announcing the name of the new Governor of the Bank of Canada, less than a month ahead of the departure of current Governor Mark Carney, who is set to become head of the Bank of England on June 1.

We don't know for sure who will be tapped for the job (although Senior Deputy Governor Tiff Macklem is said to be the odds-on favourite). What we do know is that the individual will be a Canadian. No other nationalities were invited to apply. In case you missed it back in January, it said just that on the web site of Odgers Berndtson, the executive search firm tasked with doing the recruiting, as well as in an advertisement placed the pages of The Economist magazine.

In light of the citizenship requirement, the placing of an ad in The Economist seemed especially strange. With more than 94 per cent of that publication's 1.5 million circulation occurring outside Canada, the objective may have been to find a long-lost Canadian banker in Timbuktu...or in a dentist office waiting room somewhere else on the planet.

But, in 2013, does such a citizenship restriction even make any sense? Or is it just another manifestation of good, old-fashioned Canadian parochialism?

Why not emulate the Brits and just go after the best man or woman for the job, without regard to nationality? After all, not once but twice in recent years the U.K. has broken precedence and selected non-citizens for important, high-profile roles. And both were Canadians.

The first was Newfoundland native Moya Greene, who in 2010 left her position as CEO of Canada Post to become the first non-Briton and woman to head up the Royal Mail. And of course the second involves Mr. Carney's imminent investiture as Governor of the Bank of England.

Some will argue, given the state of the Royal Mail and the British economy, desperate times called for desperate measures.

But, whatever the circumstances, why wouldn't any nation wish to seek out and hire the best possible person for the job? If the Brits can get over themselves, why can't we?

And while hiring, say, an American as Governor of the Bank of Canada might be a (Peace) bridge too far, what about a Swiss, a German or a Singaporean? Or even an Australian, for that matter?

A few decades ago there was a popular expression meant to say that someone was stating the obvious -- "Is the Pope Italian?" The expression worked pretty well for several centuries...until the Pope became, in turn, Polish, German and Argentine.

Is the Governor of the Bank of Canada Canadian? Must he or she be?

While it is too late to re-write the job specs for Governor of Canada this time around, the nationality restriction should be dropped going forward. This could well still produce a Canadian winner -- but with the added benefit that he or she would be deemed the best candidate for the job in the world, not just Canada.

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