A few days ago I gave a brief history of the civil war which has bedevilled the Liberal Party of Canada for 50 years, since about 1969. It seems that it rages anew … as I suspected it might, given the fast-fading fortunes of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Chantal Hébert , writing in The Star, reports that “some insiders are already strategizing a path to the party leadership for former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney.” Mr Carney’s name reportedly came up in a conference call of “backroom players” who were discussing Trudeau’s waning fortunes ahead of an October general election, according to Ms Hébert, who cited an “unidentified participant” on that call. The thinking seems to be that a poor showing for Trudeau could open the door for Carney to succeed Trudeau, she said. The newspaper cited efforts by a “similar group” to recruit Mark Carney in 2012 when he was governor of the Bank of Canada. Mr Carney’s term at the Bank of England ends in January.
I recall the efforts to persuade Mr Carney to join the Liberal team in 2012. My impression then was that he was the favourite of the so-called ‘Manley Liberals,’ who were dismayed at the notion of an unbearably intellectually lightweight, Justin Trudeau, taking the reins of the party from Michael Ignatieff (via Bob Rae). What was not clear, at the time, was whether or not Mr Carney was and is actually a Liberal … at the time he refused to say that he was a Liberal or a Conservative. What he is, as the Globe and Mail reporters said, seven years ago, is “a socially progressive [and] fiscally conservative candidate,” or would be if he would consider taking the job.
And therein lies the essence of the ongoing civil war: the Liberal Party of Canada is socially progressive ~ it moved from being moderate to being progressive in the 1960s and I think there is no wish, even amongst the ‘Manley Liberals,’ to be measurably less progressive now, a half-century later; but it is deeply divided between the fiscal conservative Liberals, the ‘Manley or Blue Liberals,’ and the tax-and-spend Trudeauites.
My guess is that the Liberal Party’s own, private, polling tells them that there is a growing concern amongst Canadians, across the political spectrum, about the mounting deficits with which Justin Trudeau and Bill Morneau have saddled the country. It may be that the SCN-Lavalin, Philpott and Wilson-Raybould and, most recently, the Mark Norman affairs have tipped the balance to a point where the party brass believe that Trudeau may need to step aside, soon, not to “make way” for Carney after the election, but now, before Ocober.
I doubt that Mark Carney would beak his word to the UK government and leave his office as Governor of the Bank of England in the summer, in order to contest for the Liberal leadership (he promised to stay on until January 2020 to help with the Brexit transition) unless the Brexit is to be delayed by many months. But the Liberal Party of Canada might decide to stage an in-house coup and force M Trudeau to resign, in, say, June and then replace him, as interim leader, with Marc Garneau who could, I think, rescue at least a minority government or, at worst, hold Andrew Scheer to a weak minority. If M Garneau was the interim leader and promised not to run for the leadership after the election then Mr Carney, and others, could announce, before October, that he would seek the office and that would reassure many Canadians that their government would be in able hands, at last. Mr Carney could do that IF he is interested in the job.
Back in 2012 Mark Carney was a rock-star central banker ~ and, for those with an interest in monetary policy, perhaps almost 1% of the population, he still is ~ but most Canadians have likely forgotten how often they saw him reassuring Canada and the world about how Canada would make its way through the global financial crisis of a decade ago … but that was a different time and he was on a different team.
It’s not clear, to me, that the ‘Manley Liberals’ have the strength, yet, to toss Justin Trudeau and 50 years of the toxic legacy of the Trudeaus, père et fils, onto history’s trash heap, where they belong. That’s what will have to happen if the party is to regain the political centre that it once held so firmly and that, the political, social and economic centre, is where I think Mark Carney resides.