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Does Mark Carney have his eyes on Canada’s top prize?

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Speculation is rising inside the ruling Liberal Party that Carney may be seeking to position himself as a successor to Trudeau

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OTTAWA — Mark Carney, who has led central banks in two Group of Seven nations, may be running out of time to enter politics in his native Canada and become a contender to replace Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Speculation is rising inside the ruling Liberal Party that Carney may be seeking to position himself as a successor to Trudeau, who has governed Canada since 2015. Winning a seat in the House of Commons is seen as a required first step, as the Liberals have rarely chosen a leader from outside its ranks in the past century.

If Carney, 56, does not seek a seat in a general election expected later this year, he could miss a chance at a post-Trudeau leadership contest.

The centre-left Liberals held a policy convention last week during which Carney, an economist and former Goldman Sachs investment banker, dropped his biggest hint yet that he could run for parliament.

“I’ll do whatever I can to support the Liberal Party in our efforts to build a better future for Canadians,” he told the delegates.

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Six senior Liberals say Carney would be a notable catch — to much acclaim he steered the Bank of Canada through the 2008 global financial crisis and the Bank of England through the tumult that followed the 2016 Brexit referendum, leaving that job in 2020 shortly after the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Those experiences have made Carney one of only a few Canadians with a global profile.

The Liberal sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, say a candidate of Carney’s caliber would not run without the promise of a prominent cabinet seat. The obvious position for him would be minister of finance.

‘Not the messiah’

Carney, who was born in Canada’s Northwest Territories but currently lives in Ottawa, has not ruled out a future in politics. When asked by Maclean’s magazine last month whether he planned to run for public office, he replied: “I don’t have any current plans.”

Carney, who is an informal policy adviser to Trudeau, did not respond to a request for comment.

He is currently promoting a new book, a 600-page tome titled “Values: Building a Better World for All,” and is considered a top expert on how the global economy must shift to fight climate change. He is generally regarded as a centrist in Canada’s political landscape.

But some Liberals are doubtful Carney will run for a seat in the House of Commons soon, in part because he likely would have to serve a considerable period of time in the Trudeau government before a leadership contest materialized.

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“The real question is not: Does Mark Carney want to be prime minister? The real question is: Does Mark Carney want to serve under this prime minister? Because this prime minister isn’t going anywhere,” said one well-placed Liberal.

Trudeau, 49, told Reuters in January that he was “looking forward to a number of more years of serving Canadians” and aides say nothing has changed, though they think the next election is likely to be his last as leader.

The real question is: Does Mark Carney want to serve under this prime minister? Because this prime minister isn’t going anywhere

Liberal source

When asked twice during the last week whether he wanted Carney to run for a seat, Trudeau did not answer.

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There is also no guarantee Carney would have a lock on the party leadership or even be the front-runner if Trudeau stepped down. Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, who also has a global profile, is seen as a serious contender for the job.

Carney would not want to make a leadership move if it meant a “civil war bloodbath,” the well-placed Liberal source said.

Under Freeland’s watch, Canada has racked up record budget deficits to fight the pandemic, and she is promising major new spending initiatives in a budget due to be unveiled on April 19.

Liberal sources say some members are uncomfortable with the colossal spending and could look to Carney as a brake.

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But even Liberals who support him fret about raising expectations too high.

“He’s not the Messiah, I don’t think he walks on water, I don’t think he performs miracles,” said one legislator who wondered why Carney would be tempted by politics.

Carney currently heads the green investment program at Canada’s Brookfield Asset Management Inc, acts as a United Nations special envoy on climate change and finance, and is helping Britain prepare for a climate summit.

“Anything in government is junior to what he’s already doing … he has dealings with the most influential people in the world,” the legislator said.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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