The new regime
Last summer when the federal election was called, I assumed that Mark Carney would run for office. Everything looked to be in place for the former governor of the Bank of Canada and the Bank of England who had previously declared that he was a Liberal. He had just published a book, Value(s), that The Guardian called “magnificent” and a “landmark achievement,” high praise not usually given by the British newspaper. He was living in Ottawa and the safe Liberal seat of Ottawa Centre beckoned.
But the man with a doctorate from Oxford did not run. At the time, I thought he’d made a mistake. He would have been given a senior cabinet post and put himself in prime position to run for leader of the Liberal Party when Justin Trudeau eventually stepped down. By way of explanation, he said he was already involved in an environmental conference sponsored by the United Nations and did not want to leave them in the lurch. He also had a day job as vice-chair at Brookfield Asset Management where he was involved in investments with social and environmental outcomes.
When the Liberals won and he was not part of the new government, his absence seemed even more wrong-headed. But now that the conference in Glasgow with which Carney was involved is over, I can see that he made the right choice. Under the rather grandiose name of the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero, Carney has signed up 450 financial institutions from nearly fifty countries to commit more than $100 trillion in order to reach net zero emission targets by 2050.
Carney could never have achieved such an outcome as a cabinet minister. Indeed, with the exception of Chrystia Freeland, who has the ear of the prime minister, the other cabinet ministers seem a long way down the food chain. The Prime Minister’s Office runs all the departments and tells the ministers what to say in the House and on the hustings. The net result is that the best people no longer run for office. If motivated to do public good, they choose instead to act outside the political system. And that’s a shame. Political parties of whatever stripe used to be the best way to achieve national consensus. As a result, we are left with more to divide us than unite us,