OTTAWA (Reuters) - Tiff Macklem, currently second-in-command at the Bank of Canada, is unanimously seen as the most likely successor to Governor Mark Carney, according to a Reuters poll published on Wednesday.
All 16 analysts who responded in the survey said that Macklem, 51, is the firm front-runner to take the helm at the central bank when Carney steps down on June 1 to run the Bank of England.
"It would be tough to justify passing up such a well-qualified person who is so in touch with running the Bank of Canada," said Bricklin Dwyer, economist at BNP Paribas.
Macklem has spent most of the past 25 years at the Bank of Canada and has been senior deputy governor there since 2010.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who will interview a short list of candidates, has said he'd like to announce the new governor this month after obtaining cabinet approval.
Analysts in the poll were asked who they thought the top three candidates to replace Carney were, ranked from most likely to least likely.
Of the analysts surveyed, 16 put Macklem at the top of the list. Several respondents provided only one or two names.
Overall, there were seven other candidates on the roster of second- and third-place candidates, including two current deputy governors.
Stephen Poloz, the head of Canada's export credit agency, was mentioned more than any other candidate as the second most likely to get the job. Six analysts mentioned Poloz as their No. 2 bet, while two named current Bank of Canada deputy governor Timothy Lane.
Agathe Cote, also a deputy governor, and Andrew Spence, managing director at the Toronto-based OMERS pension fund, got one mention each as a No. 2 pick.
Some economists have privately characterized the competition as a "two-horse race" between Macklem and Poloz.
The third-choice picks were more evenly split among internal and external candidates, with former Deputy Governor Jean Boivin garnering the most attention with four mentions.
Other third-place candidates - each mentioned once in that ranking - were Poloz, Spence as well as Bill Robson, head of an Ottawa think tank called the C.D. Howe Institute, and Darrell Duffie, a Stanford University professor and influential financial economist.
Duffie is the only one that had not been previously mentioned in connection with the Bank of Canada's top job.
Most economists have said in the past several weeks that Macklem is the obvious best fit for the job and have had trouble justifying any alternative names. But they also acknowledge that the past two governors have been surprise external appointments and that possibility cannot be ruled out this time.
The government may also favor someone with direct financial markets experience, or it may want to signal a change of direction with somebody like Duffie.
Here are the seven potential candidates other than Macklem that were named by poll respondents and the number of times they were mentioned overall:
Stephen Poloz (7)
Jean Boivin (4)
Timothy Lane (2)
Andrew Spence (2)
Agathe Cote (1)
Bill Robson (1)
Darrell Duffie (1)
Polling and analysis by Deepti Govind; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson and Peter Galloway