MacDougall: On the return of Mark Carney – Don’t depend on Superman when politics needs some Clark Kents

Whether the former top banker ultimately runs for office or not, we can’t afford for public life to become another preserve for the well-to-do and well-connected.

Article content

Given the right holy mess governments are making of their coronavirus responses, some frustrated citizens are praying for divine intervention. But with God unavailable for selection to the parliamentary front bench, some are turning to the next best thing: former central bankers.

In case you missed the news, former Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney is being given a starring role at this week’s Liberal party convention, where he will be featured “in conversation” with Liberal MP Marci Ien, who will be playing the role of Mike Duffy in this stage-managed production. Viewers should expect plenty of vigorous agreement on climate change and a fair number of plugs for Carney’s new book, “Value(s).”

There will also be a fair share of swooning, both in the room and across the commentariat. Carney’s toe-dip into partisan waters is viewed as a prelude to a proper dive into the political deep end in the next election, whenever that should be.


This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

How excited you are over the prospect of Carney correlates with your proximity to power. If you’re a decision-maker or around them all day, the prospect of Carney’s bullion-plated C.V. is the most exciting thing since deliverology. But if you’ve been the victim of decision-makers over the past 20 or so years, you’re probably not squealing about a Carney move to partisan politics.

The rise of finance and over-inflated CEO pay. The hollowing out of manufacturing and disappearance of well-paying working class jobs. The creeping of markets into social spheres. The outsourcing of governance to experts and technocrats. Carney has been there for it all, often in positions of significant power. And while Carney now writes, sincerely in my view, that most of this was bad and needs to be fixed, people could be forgiven for giving a global wolf future control over their chicken coop.

The green economy might just be the next big thing, but as long as its champions come from the world of privilege, i.e. the segment of society that is skating through this pandemic banking its disposable income, ordinary people will find it hard to shake the feeling they’re being turned over again by their betters. Indeed, the very idea of a Superman like Carney gracing politics with his presence is an indication we no longer value the Clark Kents of this world.

Because Mr. Kent isn’t benefiting from the dominance of Amazon, Google and Facebook, or the trend toward oligopoly in just about every major sector of the economy. Kent doesn’t play the stock market, or invest in the next big thing. He doesn’t have time to be sneered at for not doing the right thing, probably because he’s faced with the prospect of driving the Uber to the next charity ball in support of green governance, not riding in one to attend it.


This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Nor, for that matter, is Clark Kent being sought out for office, or willing to even seek it given the rather low ceiling of a life on the back bench, where he is only encouraged to cheer on the star candidates. The fetishization of celebrity in politics brings to mind William F. Buckley’s quote about preferring a government run by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than one run by the faculty of Harvard.

Whether Carney ultimately runs or not, we can’t afford for public life to become another preserve for the well-to-do and well-connected. We need more people to become civically engaged, not fewer. We need more of Edmund Burke’s little platoons, not atomized citizens doped up on Netflix and the illusion of online community, content to let others settle their affairs.

Put differently, the problems facing us won’t be fixed by superheroes wearing capes, because superheroes who wear capes filter out a lot of “normal.” To adjust Buckley’s dictum, if green policy doesn’t work for those first 2,000 names in the phone book, it doesn’t work. And it takes some of those first two thousand to be in government to make it work, whether the pointy heads like it or not.

So dive in, Superman. But give me some Clark Kents too.

Andrew MacDougall is a London-based communications consultant and ex-director of communications to former prime minister Stephen Harper.


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button