Three words to describe Mark Carney career speculation: It’s a circus

Updated: John Geddes on what the governor did — and didn’t — say

Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of Canada, spoke today at the Vancouver Island Economic Alliance conference in Nanaimo, B.C., applying his usual verbal precision to the state of the global and Canadian economies.

But at the news conference afterwards, asked if he has plans to enter federal politics—a question he must have anticipated, given the recent discussion in Liberal circles about how cool it would be if he sought the party’s leadership—Carney’s knack for exactitude seemed to fail him.

“I definitely don’t want to answer that,” he answered, according to Reuters. (Why not?) He went on: “Look, I am doing my job. I am going to do my job. It’s pretty simple, I’ve got two years and change, at least, left on my mandate.”

True enough. Appointments to the bank’s governorship are for seven years, and Carney became the country’s top central banker on Feb. 1, 2008. Still, he could have firmly shut down speculation by clearly stating what he’s not going to do—jump into politics, seek the Liberal leadership—rather than just reminding us of what he’s free to keep doing if he likes.

Then he suggested that asking the question is somehow silly. (This is a point of view shared by quite a few pundits and commentators.) Here’s how Carney put it: “Why don’t I become a circus clown? I appreciate the great concern about my career, but I have gainful employment and I intend to continue it.”

I’m not sure if Liberals will be offended by the example he chose of a career change to compare to the one he was asked about. Many will find it an amusing expression of exasperation. What it was not, however, was straightforward and categorical.


For those interested in parsing the Q & A more in more detail, here is a transcript of the press conference exchange in Nanaimo:

Q “This is another one that you might not want to answer, but are you going to run for the federal Liberal leadership?”

A “I definitely don’t want to answer that. Look, I am doing my job.  I’m going to do my job.  It’s pretty simple, I’ve got two years and change at least—yeah, two and change—left on my mandate.”

QWhat about other federal politics other than the Liberal leadership,  possibly just running for an MP’s job?”

 A “Why not, yeah, you know, why not become a circus clown? [Laughter in the room.] I appreciate the great concern about my career but I have gainful employment and I intend to continue it.”

So that was it. A couple of points of note:

Firstly, the much-quoted clown quip came, not in response to the question about contesting the Liberal leadership, but rather when he was asked, quite inexplicably, a more general question about running for a seat in Parliament. (Carney as backbencher? The mind reels.)

And, secondly, just for fun, consider how Carney’s first answer would have sounded had he had slipped in the word No. For instance, responding to the question, “Are you going to run for the Liberal leadership?,” he might have answered, “No, I’m going to do my job…” Simple. But that’s not what he said.

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