Who benefits when Mark Carney takes a hit over a whitewashed Asian face on a $100 bill?
Something smells about this widely reported story involving the image on the Bank of Canada's new $100 bill.
And that's the timing.
Some participants expressed concerns about the "Asian" appearance of the female scientist on the note, which went into circulation in November.
The Bank of Canada responded by whitewashing the image. And nearly a year later, the story bursts onto the front pages during the slowest news period of the year. That triggers outrage, particularly among Canadians of colour, and Carney is forced to apologize.
Beeby is an acknowledged expert in filing freedom-of-information requests, so it's quite likely he came up with all of this on his own.
But it's equally possible he was tipped off to making a request for the results of the focus group.
Let's hypothesize for a moment that the latter point is true. Let's go further and guess that this suggestion came from someone who knew how explosive this information could be—provided it was released at the right time of year when it would receive maximum publicity.
Then it becomes a whodunit. Who would want to embarrass Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney? To date, he has been the Teflon man of the international financial world.
Consider this new dimension, which might have provided a motive. Not very long ago, Global TV and the Toronto Star's Chantal Hebert were trotting out his name as a possible future leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.
Carney's background with Goldman Sachs has won him the confidence of the moneyed set. He extended an olive branch to progressives when he called the Occupy protests "entirely constructive".
Carney has also become something of a rock star in international financial circles, chairing the G20's Financial Stability Board and rumoured to be in line to become governor of the Bank of England.
He's 47 years old. Exactly the right age the Liberals would like in a leader. He's more mature and accomplished than Justin Trudeau. Yet Carney's young and dynamic enough to make the Conservatives' Stephen Harper and the NDP's Thomas Mulcair look like they're from a previous generation.
Some members of the Bank of Canada's board of directors may have heard about the focus group results. It's conceivable that one or more of them could have shared this information with a Conservative politician.
Suddenly, the information about the focus group goes public, and Carney becomes damaged goods—on a certain level—with progressives who feel it's time that a person of colour finally appeared on one of our bank notes.
After all, if we can feature a guy who locked up the Japanese Canadians during the Second World War— Mackenzie King—surely we can offset that with an image of someone of Asian descent.
I'm not saying that there was a political hit ordered on Mark Carney because there's no conclusive proof. But I also don't think we should discount the possibility—especially given the way the Conservatives have gone after previous leaders of the Liberal Party of Canada.
I can't wait to read the comments from Stephen Harper supporters who will accuse me of being some sort of crackpot for coming up with this perfectly reasonable hypothesis. I've been in this business long enough to know that news often doesn't happen by accident.
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.