James Elliott Coyne

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James Coyne

2nd Governor of the Bank of Canada
In office
January 1, 1955 July 13, 1961
Appointed byBoard of Directors of the Bank of Canada, with the approval of the federal Cabinet (St. Laurent ministry)
Preceded by Graham Towers
Succeeded by Louis Rasminsky
Personal details
James Elliott Coyne

(1910-07-17)July 17, 1910
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
DiedOctober 12, 2012(2012-10-12) (aged 102)
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Relations James Henry Coyne (paternal grandfather)
Deborah Coyne (niece)
Children5, including Susan and Andrew Coyne

James Elliott Coyne, OM (July 17, 1910 October 12, 2012) was the second Governor of the Bank of Canada, from 1955 to 1961, succeeding Graham Towers. During his time in office, he had a much-publicized debate with Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, a debate often referred to as the "Coyne Affair" (or sometimes the "Coyne Crisis"), which led to his resignation and, eventually, to greater central-bank independence in Canada.


Life and career

Coyne was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the son of Edna Margaret (née Elliott) and James Bowes Coyne, a judge at the Manitoba Court of Appeal, [1] [2] who was co-prosecutor of the men accused of seditious conspiracy in the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919. [3] His grandfather was lawyer and historian James Henry Coyne. Coyne graduated Ridley College in St. Catharines, Ontario in 1925, and had conferred upon him a BA in 1931 from the University of Manitoba. He studied at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, playing for the Oxford University Ice Hockey Club, and in 1934 received a B.A. Jurisprudence and BCL. During World War II, he served in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

From 1944 to 1949, Coyne was executive assistant to Graham Towers at the Bank of Canada and from 1950 until 1954 was Deputy Governor. He was appointed Governor in 1955, [4] resigned in 1961, [5] and was succeeded by Louis Rasminsky.

He was the father of journalist Andrew Coyne and actress and playwright Susan Coyne, and stepfather of Sanford Riley, Patrick Riley and Nancy Riley. [6] He was also an uncle of constitutional lawyer Deborah Coyne.

The Coyne Affair

The Coyne Affair, or the Coyne Crisis, was a public disagreement between the government of John Diefenbaker, notably the finance minister Donald Fleming, and the governor of the Bank of Canada.

As Governor, Coyne heavily criticized the government's fiscal policies, in which the Diefenbaker government spent and borrowed heavily in an effort to stimulate growth amid a flagging economy. Government officials urged Coyne to lower interest rates and create economic activity. Coyne disagreed, arguing that loose-money policies were creating a debt crisis and that Canada was relying too much on capital exports and loans from the United States and that a tightening was needed. In speeches and brochures, he criticized the government's expansionary policies. The government took the position that an elected government, especially one elected with a large mandate, should direct monetary policy. [7]

Matters came to a head when Coyne raised his own pension, to $25,000, which Diefenbaker deemed excessive when he himself had no entitlement to one. The Conservative majority in the House of Commons passed a bill declaring his position vacant, but the Liberal-controlled Senate of Canada rejected it. Nevertheless, Coyne resigned the next day. [8] For his role in this controversy, the Canadian Press named him Canadian Newsmaker of the Year in 1961.


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  1. Reitemeyer, John R (1941-04-06). "Canada Made Anxious By Dwindling Supply Of American Dollars". The Hartford Courant.
  2. Gordon Goldsborough, J. M. Bumsted. "Memorable Manitobans: James Bowes Coyne (1878-1965)". Mhs.mb.ca. Retrieved 2012-10-13.
  3. 'Labour / Le Travail' Journal of the Canadian Committee on Labour History: "Legal Gentlemen Appointed by the Federal Government": the Canadian State, the Citizens' Committee of 1000, and Winnipeg's Seditious Conspiracy Trials of 1919-1920"
  4. Archived February 16, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  5. Pierre Siklos (2007-12-08). "Revisiting the Coyne Affair: A Singular Event That Changed the Course of Canadian Monetary History". Ideas.repec.org. Retrieved 2012-10-13.
  6. 1 2 "A man of the highest principle". Winnipeg Free Press. October 14, 2012.
  7. Stursberg, pp. 229–230
  8. Stursberg, pp. 242–246
  9. http://www.gg.ca/honour.aspx?id=206216&t=13&ln=Coyne
  10. "Order of Manitoba grows stronger". Winnipeg Free Press. July 13, 2012.
  11. "James Coyne: A father, Rhodes scholar and Bank of Canada governor". The Globe and Mail. October 13, 2012.