Straight Talk
DAVID AKIN - Mark Carney pub crawl catches journos by surprise

Governor of the Bank of Canada Mark Carney (R) laughs before speaking to the business community during a luncheon in Toronto, December 11, 2012

Credits: REUTERS/MARK BLINCH

DAVID AKIN | PARLIAMENTARY BUREAU CHIEF

OTTAWA -- Wanted for questioning by reporters on both sides of the Atlantic for his potential political dalliances, Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney appeared to call the bluff of journalists by wading into a pub here Wednesday night packed with reporters where he hoisted a Christmas pint with his would-be interlocutors.

A few dozen reporters from the parliamentary press gallery had convened after work hours at the Metropolitain Brasserie, a block away from the House of Commons, to mark the season with a holiday drink.

Many of them were surprised when Carney, in his banker's suit and tie, also showed up, ordered a pint of beer himself, and then spent 90 minutes or so mixing with the crowd which included journalists from Sun Media, Postmedia, The Toronto Star, CBC, CTV, The Globe and Mail and other news outlets.

Journalists in Canada and the U.K. had been asking Carney for interviews all week about reports that surfaced on the weekend -- and were confirmed Monday by the Bank of Canada -- that Carney and his family spent nearly a week of their summer vacation at the home of Liberal MP and finance critic Scott Brison. Brison and other senior Liberals at the time were hotly pursuing Carney to quit the Bank and run for the Liberal leadership.

Many journalists at the pub Wednesday, most without notebooks, tape recorders and other tools of their trade, seemed surprised and confused by Carney's presence, which he said was on a "social basis" on his own private time, the same excuse he used to explain his vacation at Brison's Nova Scotia home.

Carney is a superstar on the global banking circuit and, in the summer, will become governor of the Bank of England, the first-ever non-Brit to hold that prestigious post.

And while Carney never fell for the pleas from Canadian Liberals, he did succumb to wooing from British Prime Minister David Cameron and other U.K. leaders who convinced him to leave his job at the Bank of Canada early in order to begin work fixing the British financial system.

Nonetheless, British MPs, including some from the ruling Conservative Party, along with many British journalists, wanted to know more about Carney's flirtations with the Canadian Liberal party. Carney is to appear before a British parliamentary committee in February where he is expected to be asked about his Liberal connections.

Carney seemed reluctant to speak on-the-record about the political controversy. He did make it known, however, that he believes suggestions that he was engaged in partisan political activity are baseless and that partisans of parties other than the Liberals had also sought him out with an eye towards recruiting him. He also said he has not yet started searching for a home in London, England.

While at the pub, Carney had his picture snapped by a journalist for the Parliament Hill newspaper, beer in hand, chatting with Human Resources Minister Diane Finley and her husband, Senator Doug Finley, the former national Conservative campaign manager and one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's closest confidantes.

Having his picture snapped in the presence of two of the most partisan Conservatives on the Hill -- the Finleys -- could be seen as helping tilt the balance among those who might think Carney was a closet Liberal.

The Finleys were the only MPs or Senators who were in the pub while Carney was present. No Liberal or New Democrat politicians were present.

Other than journalists, a handful of Conservative political aides, including some from the Prime Minister's Officer, were in the pub but any of those who were asked about the Carney controversy refused to comment on or off the record.

Carney left the pub shortly after 8 p.m.

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