Letters, emails show Carney blasted by citizens
Published Saturday, January 22, 2011 1:17PM EST
OTTAWA - Fat-cat bankers have been a perennial target for the scorn of ordinary citizens trying to make ends meet -- and Canada's top banker is no exception.
Internal documents suggest the governor of the Bank of Canada, Mark Carney, earns his fair share of invective whenever he bumps up interest rates.
Witness the surge in emails and letters that followed the central bank's most-recent decision to raise rates, even as Canada's economy was suffering from anemia.
"Your latest increase has added yet another six months to the duration of my mortgage," one correspondent hissed after the Sept. 8 hike. "Your advisers must be daft."
Said one small-business owner, with his caps-lock button on: "WHAT ARE YOU THINKING! You are obviously out of touch with how shaky the economy really is and the lack of profits and the number of marginal jobs and unemployed workers."
Copies of email and letter correspondence sent directly to Carney after the Sept. 8 hike were obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act. All identifying information about the senders was removed under the law's privacy protections.
Last year, the central bank received about 4,300 emails and letters from citizens on a wide range of issues, from foreign exchange and Canada Savings Bonds to unclaimed bank balances and monetary policy. There were also about 9,600 telephone calls.
But only 395 emails and letters in 2010 were addressed directly to Carney, whose thankless job has been to help steer the economy through tempestuous seas for the last three years.
The number of missives is in stark contrast with the Prime Minister's Office, which receives more than two million pieces of correspondence each year -- mostly email -- on a wide range of topics.
A spokesman for the Bank of Canada says the relatively few citizens who write directly to the governor normally are prompted by public releases.
"Anecdotally ... speeches, interest rates, and major publications tend to generate correspondence and reaction from the public," Jeremy Harrison said in an interview.
The Sept. 8 announcement, that a key bank rate would rise by a quarter of a percentage point, triggered a typical flurry of angry words.
"Your economists are continuing to demonstrate a remarkable inability to grasp what is actually taking place in the Canadian and global economy," one citizen wrote on the day of the announcement.
"The only redeeming feature is that they are joined by the vast majority of their fellow alchemists around the globe. ...
"It's too bad your alchemists don't include the impoverished quality of life of ... our fellow Canadians in their models."
One citizen-critic, unhappy with the rate rise, was at least sympathetic to Carney's difficult responsibilities: "I do not want to be considered like the mother in law doing back seat driving; you are the boss of the bank and I admit that this is not an easy job."
Said another: "I am not a happy camper about the increase in the Bank of Canada rates. ... We can afford a little bit of a chance for some inflation, let people catch their breath, before increasing the rates."
A retired senior was motivated to write, by hand on foolscap paper, because he was contemplating taking out a loan to replace an old car.
"The bank's recent actions are not helpful," he complained. "Please convince me, how these bank actions of transferring dollars from us -- to the C.I.B.C. (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce) benefits us."
Another correspondent called the interest-rate hike "this Mark Carney problem."
"This is wrong Mark Carney. There is no reason to increase Bank of Canada interest rates."
Citing variable-rate mortgages, which generally increased in price on Sept. 8, one angry citizen wrote to the governor: "You have made your banking friends very happy with even higher record profits.
"It's really too bad that the Bank of Canada represents the BANKS OF CANADA and not the 30 million people who live in this country."
One amateur economist said the rate hike was indefensible because "inflation is tame as a neutered sheep."
Carney's response to all of these critics was in the form of a template letter that referred to the bank's October monetary policy report.
Harrison was not able to provide a precise breakdown of the subject matter of all emails and letters to the central bank or governor.
But the 9,585 telephone calls to the bank last year were broken down as follows: exchange rates (3,118); general inquiries about the bank (2,351); other, such as opening hours (1,404); calls referred to other organizations (576); Government of Canada bonds (485); unclaimed bank balances (390); currency (352); data and statistics (109).