Inevitably, there are mixed feelings: satisfaction that a Canadian civil servant should be held in such regard abroad; annoyance that a foreign power should feel entitled to raid our highest offices, as if we were their farm team; gratitude for his service; disappointment that he did not finish his term.
On balance, however, the departure of Mark Carney as governor of the Bank of Canada to take on the same position at the Bank of England is probably for the best.
It will of course be a great loss - he is largely deserving of his exalted reputation. That's the point - he was becoming too big for the bank. His ambitions were known to stretch beyond it; his persona was starting to overshadow it. Rock stars and central banks make an uncomfortable fit.
I do not mean this as criticism. It's impossible to know how another governor might have performed in the financial crisis of 2008. What can be said is that the decisions and actions taken at that time by the Bank of Canada and the Department of Finance stand up well.
That our banking system was not as badly mauled by the crisis as others had less to do with Carney or any current office-holder than with the historical and policy inheritance they came into. If any single person deserves credit, it's probably Mike Wilson, author of the sweeping financial regulatory reforms carried out under the Mulroney government in the 1980s.
But if Carney benefited from the bank's existing institutional reputation and broad policy mandate, notably the commitment to price stability, it is also true that it mattered who was in the governor's office in those dark days. Canada was lucky to have had a central banker with Carney's particular blend of experience, both at finance and in private capital markets.
We forget what a delicate line Canada had to walk then: signal ling concern, but not too much concern; participating in international moves to shore up the banking system, without implying our own banks had anything to worry about.
The policies the government and the bank pursued - a massive, but temporary, expansion in money supply; improving liquidity via purchases of banks' mortgage-backed assets; offering to insure interbank loans, but at a rate no one would pay - helped to preserve confidence at a time when it could easily have been lost.
But ultimately, it's the institution that counts, not the man. The Bank of Canada is steeped in talent, and any successor will be able to draw on the same organizational strengths as Carney did.
And Carney's own outsized talents, it must be said, were beginning to present a problem. Politically savvy, a natural communicator, possessed of a certain glamour (at least by central-banker standards) and young enough to harbour ambitions beyond his current office, it was perhaps inevitable that he should excite speculation about his future plans, without ever intending to.
All the same, it was unhealthy that talk began to turn to the possibility of him running for Liberal leader, and unhealthier still that this was not more firmly squelched sooner.
I have no reason to believe he ever seriously considered doing so, but it would have been a terrible business if he had.
For a governor to resign to lead the party seeking to replace the government he had lately served? I do not think the people who were urging this course upon Carney thought this through.
I don't mean to suggest for one second that any of this had anything to do with his decision to take the Bank of England job. It's a fascinating challenge, at a critical moment in British and world economic history, to say nothing of the pay, perks and prestige. But it does have the happy side benefit of putting this issue to rest.
Five and a half years from now, when Carney, according to his contract, finishes his term, there may well be a new government, or at least a new prime minister. At the very least, he will have put more than five years between himself and the office he once held.
If he does have political ambitions, he will be free to pursue them then.
© Copyright 2013