Carney to England: Maybe just visiting is a good idea -

Carney to England: Maybe just visiting is a good idea

Paul Wells on change at the Bank of Canada


Mark Carney’s departure for England will be keenly felt by a certain segment of Ottawa society, disproportionately based in the toney enclave of Rockcliffe Park and the would-be-toney neighbourhood of New Edinburgh, who believed Carney’s presence among us — He jogged the canal! His kids used to go to RPPS! — somehow validated Ottawa as a serious town.

The reaction when he walked through certain oak-panelled rooms — the dewey-eyed gaze of the steering committee members, the way Burberry-clad hearts would go pitty-pat — was Pavlovian. I’ve attended more than one dinner party where conversation turned, in the bank governor’s absence, to a perennial topic: “I don’t know how Mark puts up with this shitty little town.”

Now that he’s leaving, there’ll be an undercurrent of bitterness at Fraser Café tonight. The ADMs will be muttering into their aioli. “This is just another hopped-up lumber town,” they’ll say. “Always was.”

“Can’t keep serious talent,” the visiting fellows will grumble. “Now I’ll never get to ask him where he bought his cufflinks.”

But what if this whole international-mandarin-class thing is a good idea? 

I was going to congratulate the Brits on their open-mindedness in allowing a foreigner to run their central bank, but in fact there are many examples of public-service managers moving from jurisdiction to jurisdiction instead of staying in one city, or even one country, for an entire career.

Consider William Bratton. He was the police superintendent in Boston before Rudy Giuliani made him commissioner of the NYPD. Bratton presided over a drastic reduction in crime in New York City, and while there’s room to debate how much of that was due to his police techniques, he moved on to run the Los Angeles police department. And he was up for the top job in London’s police department before the UK home secretary decided that job, at least, must not be open to foreigners.

There’s also Richard Pennington, who was a top cop in the District of Columbia before leading the New Orleans police department, and then Atlanta’s. And Jay Walder, who ran London’s transit system before taking over New York City’s subway, before leaving to run a Hong Kong transportation company.

It has been suggested, by the U.S. blogger Matt Yglesias among others, that a similar system should be in place for elected officials as well, or at least that such lateral moves should not be out of the question. The idea here is that the best mayor for a big city would be, not a city councillor from that city, but somebody who had been a good mayor of a smaller city. Similarly, in Canada a rule of thumb, or accident of history, holds that provincial premiers don’t become prime minister. But maybe they should? Surely a decade delivering public services to 3 million Canadians is a better preparation for delivering services to 30 million than a decade being told by a sitting prime minister what to do.

I’m only half-serious here, but it’s fun to consider how far this could go. When Gordon Brown was suffering through his eternal (although, as it turned out, richly deserved) purgatory waiting for Tony Blair to retire, Éric le Boucher wrote a column in Le Monde saying Brown’s was too good a talent to waste. Perhaps while he waited to run Britain, le Boucher wrote, Brown could lend himself out as the interim prime minister of Germany, France and Italy. He’d hardly have done worse than the locals who round up running at least two of those countries.

People sometimes speculate about what Stephen Harper will do once he leaves office in Canada. Perhaps the answer is under our eyes. Perhaps he should be put in charge of Spain. Or Toronto.



Carney to England: Maybe just visiting is a good idea

  1. Surely it is going to be certain Liberals/liberals most disappointed in Ottawa about Carney leaving.

    Spain can have Harper right now, no reason to wait a few years. I believe Anglosphere pols and bureaucrats could move through Anglosphere countries but I don’t believe we will be swapping pols with non-anglo countries any time soon. I think it is big deal that Brits put foreigner in charge of their money, a lot of howling can be expected, but Carney is married to Brit and he went to Oxford so he’s honourary Brit.


    In this time of revolution, crisis and market upheaval, at least one traditional building block in world politics seems to be emerging stronger than ever.

    Ethnically and culturally the English speaking countries grow more diverse over the years yet the common language, common law, common culture — and the internet — seem to hold them together. And stick together they do: there is more real cooperation within the Anglosphere than you’ll find in much more formal international gatherings ranging from ASEAN and UNASUR to the Arab League and the AU.

    Collectively the Anglosphere countries rule: the world’s best universities, best athletes, best scientists and best known musicians and writers come disproportionately from the English speaking world.

    • Simply not true.

    • American Interest – God, Tony that’s virtual bird cage liner.

  2. Well, Carney just torched his chances of a serving as elected leader of any party in Canadian politics. Forever hereafter, any return to Canadian soil will be “just visiting”.

    • Good one. As a soon-to-be-returning expat, I can sympathise.

      • Which Liberal leadership job are you after? National, Ontario, Quebec are all open and more to come.

        • There’s also an opening at Toronto city hall I’ve heard.

        • How about unseating Peterborough ethicist Dean del Mastro?

          • Peterborough? Please. You need to be ninth to twelfth generation Peterborough-born to seek office or any position of influence there. Hell, the whole town is divided in half- if you’re a Peterborough native, you do business with Peterborough natives. If you’re an transplant, you do business with other transplants.

          • True of a lot of places across Canada unfortunately…drives me crazy.

            It’s the difference between a city that’s going places, and one that never will.

    • Not if he saves Britain and Europe. Ignatieff was mostly a sycophant to British and American plutocrats abroad. Carney will actually be doing something.

      • If he were to “save” Britain and Europe (a lofty aspiration, indeed), he’d be beatified. Why would he stoop to seek office in the colonies?

      • And then he’ll go straight to the House of Lords.

    • Untrue. Liberals didn’t believe it, and CPC supporters will believe what they were told.

      • If he runs for the Cons, the Libs will remind them (and the electorate) of their hypocritical attack on Ignatieff for being a tourist. If he runs for the Libs, it’ll be Ignatieff redux.

        On the other hand, if he runs for the NDP, it’ll be…a head-scratcher?

        • But Cons will believe it is different THIS time for whatever reason the party comes up with.

          • They would believe its different because it would be different. The charge against Ignattief was that he wanted nothing to do with the country for thirty years until an easy opportunity for significant power opened up. The narrative wasn’t “he’s not really Canadian” but “He’s not running for the public good, but his own.” Carney’s already proven he’s invested in the public good by his long service at the BoC.

        • Carney is too smart and sincere to lead the NDP.

    • If he disappears for thirty years and only comes back to contest the leadership of a party that would make him PM, then sure slap that label on him. Actually, no, even then that comparison doesn’t work. Because even if Carney disappears for several decades and pops back up with the sole ambition of being PM, he’ll still have had spent many years serving his country in many high profile roles. The charge against Ignatieff wasn’t about him not living in the country, it was that he only cared about himself.

      • Was he ‘just visiting’ when he came back to become Governor of the BoC?

        • No, because he came back to work in the public service which fairly or not has better optics than coming back (after a much longer absence) to attempt to become PM.

      • But he’s already been out of country quite a biit – studied in England, worked for years in England – and gasp – married an Englishman. Sounding a bit familiar, isn’t it?

        • If I was taking a swipe at Ignatieff for doing any of those things than yes it would sound quite similar. Difference being Carney came back for a role in the bureaucracy and then through hard work to the top of his field. Ignatieff came back and immediately ran for the Liberal Leadership, which was basically running to be PM. They’re two completely different cases.

          • And if Carney ever decided to return to Canada to the lead the Liberals, the Cons would just dust off the Ignatieff attack talking points.

          • If they did, then they would deserve the loss that would guarantee. The conservative attack ads have never been blunt instruments. Both the Dion and Ignatieff ads were crafted to exploit the weakness of the respective leaders. Ignatieff’s weakness was not that left, it was why he came back. He did not have an answer for the charge and his campaign fell apart. Carney would due to his prior service within the country and the global fear of European collapse making the BoE job easily spinable into an international job rather than the national one the bank’s name would suggest. So the Ignatieff attacks would work, and if the same crew is still around at that point, they’ll likely know that. Also, you’re leaving out the possible Carney is team blue.

          • * he left

          • and “so the Ignatieff attacks wouldn’t work”

    • I highly doubt he wants to be part of that circus.

  3. “I don’t know how Mark puts up with this shitty little town.”

    I can understand that sentiment. In almost every way, Ottawa makes itself appear and feel smaller than it actually is. It feels like a town, not a city. Those who look for a city in Ottawa can be disappointed, those who like the small town feel are not.

    • Mon pays ce n’est pas un pays, c’est Libor.

  4. Funny you would omit Norman Spector from your list of public servants who have worked for various governments! Ontario, BC, Federal government, Ambassador, head of ACOA . . . can’t imagine how you missed that obvious one, heh . . .

  5. My money for his post-PM job is still board of Enbridge.

    And the final sentence in the second last paragraph should probably say ‘Wound up” not “round up”

  6. Oh no. Did Carney know that Mr. Bean is going to be his deputy at the Bank Of England! -) -) -).

    • Amazing isn’t it? Peter Newman would have know this and written about it.