When Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem delivered a speech last week championing diversity and inclusion, he took a moment to deliver a mea culpa from the upper echelon of the central bank.
“We are still far from representative, particularly at the most senior levels of the bank,” Mr. Macklem said.
While the Bank of Canada has worked hard in recent years to improve its diversity as an 1,800-employee organization in the notoriously male-dominated financial services sector, its most important and publicly visible component – the governing council, the six-person team charged with setting Canada’s monetary policy – has been sliding backward.
Five years ago, half of the council’s members were women, including then-senior deputy governor Carolyn Wilkins, the bank’s No. 2 official. But with Ms. Wilkins’s resignation last December, the council now has no female representation for the first time in more than a decade.
It’s not a good look for the institution, nor a governor who not only has staked a very public position on diversity and inclusion, but also has emphasized its importance in attaining the “complete” economic recovery that the bank is pursuing with its monetary policy.
But the bank, and the government it serves, have an opportunity to do something to start fixing that. Within the next few weeks, if not sooner, we can expect a decision on a new senior deputy governor to fill the vacancy left by Ms. Wilkins. Several strong female candidates are believed to be in the mix.
Certainly near the top of the list is Sharon Kozicki, a trusted economic and monetary policy analyst who has spent the past eight years as adviser to the Bank of Canada governor (first Stephen Poloz, and now Mr. Macklem). Ms. Kozicki is already a very familiar face within the governing council’s inner sanctum, as she also serves as the council’s secretary. It’s the same dual role that Ms. Wilkins had before she was promoted to senior deputy in 2014.
Another intriguing name that has surfaced is Louise Levonian, a veteran civil servant who is Canada’s representative at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. She may be an attractive option for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who hand-picked her for her current posts, and who has the last word on the senior deputy selection. Ms. Levonian served with Mr. Macklem in the senior ranks of the Department of Finance during the 2008-09 global financial crisis.
Not that the next senior deputy governor will necessarily come from a government or central banking background. From the outset, the bank’s independent selection committee cast a relatively broad net in its talent search, looking outside the traditional box to consider some prominent economists in the private sector. Women popping up on that radar include Toronto-Dominion Bank chief economist Beata Caranci and Manulife Financial chief economist Frances Donald, both of whom would bring considerable public recognition to the role.
There is another “diversity” issue that tends to take on exaggerated importance in the bubble that is Ottawa, and that’s along language lines. The Bank of Canada has never had a francophone governor in its 87-year history, and only one francophone senior deputy – Bernard Bonin in the early 1990s. Having opted for an anglophone governor (albeit one raised in Montreal) in selecting Mr. Macklem, some observers believe the central bank might turn to one of a couple of highly qualified francophones for its senior deputy.
One leading contender is Paul Beaudry, a highly respected academic who has served as one of the bank’s four deputy governors for the past two years. The other possibility is former boy wonder deputy governor Jean Boivin, currently global head of research at asset management giant BlackRock Inc., whose name routinely comes up every time there’s a senior opening at the Bank of Canada.
But while that would address a nagging old-school issue, it’s very clear that the bank under Mr. Macklem’s leadership is much more focused on addressing 21st-century goals than 20th-century anglo/franco politics.
It should be noted that while Mr. Macklem certainly has significant input in the selection, the final choice isn’t in his hands. The selection committee presents recommendations (typically a short list) directly to Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, who takes her choice to the Prime Minister and cabinet for final approval. They certainly aren’t bound by the wishes of Mr. Macklem or the selection committee.
Don’t forget, this is the same Prime Minister and cabinet that, despite their vocal commitment to feminism and gender equality, opted to pass over Ms. Wilkins for the governorship last spring when they selected Mr. Macklem.
While no one questions that Mr. Macklem was a more-than-qualified choice, the decision was certainly a missed opportunity for this government. Worse, it cost the bank Ms. Wilkins, who opted to move on.
It will be interesting to see if the bank and the government will combine to undo some of that damage with this senior deputy appointment. There’s no question that they have some compelling candidates if they choose to do so.
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