‘Bad optics’: Mark Carney criticized for summer vacation at Liberal MP’s house

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

The story about outgoing Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney and his 'flirtations' with the federal Liberal party have made their way to the United Kingdom.

Over the weekend, the Globe and Mail published a titillating column implying that Carney — the next governor of the Bank of England — allowed himself to be wooed by the Liberals to be a leadership candidate.

"Mr. Carney was responsive to the efforts," notes the article, "and his actions over the summer — taking phone calls, asking questions about the race, staying over at [Liberal MP Scot Brison's] house during a week-long family holiday in Nova Scotia — fueled speculation about his candidacy."

[ Related: No conflict in Carney vacation with Liberal: Bank of Canada ]

The Globe is now reporting that the story, and others, have prompted Tory MPs in Britain to ask questions about Carney's political leanings.

Some British Conservative MPs who want Britain to adopt a more aggressive monetary policy expressed concern to The Times on Monday about Mr. Carney's conversations with Canadian Liberal Party members.

Mark Field, the Tory MP for the City of London, said: "Now we know he's a liberal, there seems no doubt that it will be 'business as usual' for interest rates right through until 2015."

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Somerset Tory MP, told The Times: "There is a risk on being open about your place on the political spectrum. Having someone with known political views in a nominally apolitical job can lead to disagreements."

At this point, the Bank of Canada is claiming that Carney didn't break any conflict-of-interest rules.  Moreover, Scott Brison says that he and Carney are friends and go way back.

If that's the case — fine.

But what was Carney thinking?

Did the learned, well-respected and high profile civil servant actually believe hobnobbing with Liberals or even "asking questions about the race" was appropriate?

Did he think that there would no backlash for staying at the home of Brison, who incidentally is the Liberal finance critic?

Political analyst Gerry Nicholls told Yahoo! Canada News that Carney's actions — at the very least — are "bad optics" and reveal "some poor judgment."

A spokesperson for the NDP told the National Post that the Bank of Canada governor is supposed to be non-partisan and that they would never invite him or her to stay at an MP's house.

[ Related: Carney carries Canadian lessons to the Bank of England ]

Duff Conacher, an ethics expert and founder of Democracy Watch, told the Post that Carney's stay at Brison's house "brought the impartiality of the bank into question."

"Given that Brison is the Liberal finance critic and the timing that we now know — that there was an act of appeal from Liberals to him — I think it crosses the line," he said.

"It doesn't avoid the appearance of impropriety."

Let the British politicians and media have at him.