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Poloz gets set for his first speech – but will anyone be watching?

Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz

Blair Gable/Reuters

By happenstance or design, new Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz makes his first public speech Wednesday, when the financial world's attention is riveted on another central bank chief.

Ben Bernanke wraps up a two-day meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve Board in Washington, amid speculation he will lay out a timeline for scaling back the massive amounts of liquidity the central bank is pumping into the economy.

With all eyes on Mr. Bernanke, Mr. Poloz's speech on "Rebuilding Business Confidence" to the Oakville Chamber of Commerce and subsequent news conference are almost certain to be upstaged.

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"He's going to be very much secondary," Bank of Montreal senior economist Benjamin Reitzes said of Mr. Poloz's maiden speech.

"I know the only thing people will see on our floor is Bernanke. As much as I would love to be watching both of them, I'll be watching Bernanke."

Mr. Poloz is due to speak at 12.40 p.m. ET, followed by questions from the audience and a news conference at 2.15 p.m.

Just as Mr. Poloz is doing his thing, traders in Canada and around the world will be poring over one of the most highly anticipated Fed statements in years and waiting for Mr. Bernanke to speak.

"Maybe it was fortuitous, just to give [Poloz] a lower-key event," Mr. Reitzes said.

Even without the Fed cross-talk, analysts said there isn't much reason for Mr. Poloz to address the bank's monetary policy stance. The bank hasn't yet had an official meeting of its policy committee since Mr. Poloz took over as Governor June 1.

Mr. Poloz is unlikely to hint at a rate hike or change in the bank's interest rate bias. Instead, the speech will be more about the Governor establishing his style and his credentials in the business community.

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And the choice of location – the Burlington Convention Centre, which sits on the boundary between Oakville and Burlington, deep in southern Ontario's industrial suburban heartland – underscores Mr. Poloz's bias for Main Street over Bay Street.

Canadians caught a "glimpse" of how the former Export Development Canada chief executive is likely to distinguish himself from his predecessor Mark Carney at a recent committee hearing appearance in Ottawa, said Mark Chandler, head of Canadian fixed income and currency strategy at RBC Capital Markets.

"Carney had a lot of ties to the financial community," Mr. Chandler pointed out. "The thing that's different with Stephen Poloz is that he's got more of a tie to the non-financial, corporate community. He's said he's going to be relying on … talking to businesses more."

So expect Mr. Poloz to talk up business capital spending and exports as the way forward for a Canadian economy that's struggling to gain traction in an uncertain world.

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About the Author
National Business Correspondent

Barrie McKenna is correspondent and columnist in The Globe and Mail's Ottawa bureau. From 1997 until 2010, he covered Washington from The Globe's bureau in the U.S. capital. During his U.S. posting, he traveled widely, filing stories from more than 30 states. Mr. McKenna has also been a frequent visitor to Japan and South Korea on reporting assignments. More

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