The Bank of Canada (BoC) is garnering consensus from the public on the usefulness of a digital currency, despite proclaiming it isn't necessary.
"As Canada's central bank, we want to ensure everyone can always participate in our country's economy. That means being ready for whatever the future holds," said BoC senior deputy governor Carolyn Rogers.
The central bank launched its first public consultations Monday, asking Canadians the security and privacy features they would desire for digital currency. The online survey remains open until June 19.
With declining cash transactions and rising stock in e-payment systems and cryptocurrencies, interest grew in the idea. Central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) differ from cryptocurrencies and other digital money because they're a digital version of a physical banknote. The bank said it would hold the same value as Canada's national currency.
Ultimately, a decision to launch a CBDC rests solely on the federal government. To date, 11 countries have implemented a digital currency.
"The Bank of Canada is doing everything necessary to eventually launch a digital currency, even if they still deny wanting to," PPC Leader Maxime Bernier told Rebel News.
"In their public consultation, they do mention privacy concerns, but they don't ask a single question about how it would make it easier for them to manipulate monetary policy and control how we spend our money," he said, adding, "that has always been the purpose of central banks."
In a 2010 speech, Bernier expressed concerns about central banks manipulating money, depreciating the currency, and destroying consumer purchasing power. He told Rebel News that BDSCs make changing and targeting interest rates easier, monetizing government debt, directing the newly created money to particular purposes and funding various types of approved spending.
"A digital currency will allow the Bank of Canada — a government organization — to know the details of all our transactions," he continued. "Whether or not the central bank is serious about protecting our privacy, management, and the Government of Canada will have all this centralized information at their disposal if they want to use it."
The BoC ramped up research into digital currencies before the COVID pandemic and has been the centre of discussions among central banks globally. It accelerated in 2019 after Facebook announced it would launch a digital currency - a plan they have since abandoned.
The bank intends to publish a report on the public consultations later this year.
"Can we trust them after [Finance Minister Chrsytia] Freeland froze bank accounts during the Freedom Convoy? After they printed hundreds of billions to fund Trudeau's gigantic deficits?" posed Bernier. "NO!"
According to BoC officials, Canada doesn't need a CBDC until they observe a sharper decline in cash purchases or a considerable uptake of cryptocurrencies.
"There may come a time when banknotes are not widely used in day-to-day transactions, which could risk excluding many Canadians from taking part in the economy," said Canada's central bank.
However, officials expressed concern over accepting digital currencies from other countries as a form of payment, claiming "it could compromise the role of the Canadian dollar…and pose a risk to the stability of our financial system." The Canadian Bankers Association said CBDCs could decrease competitiveness in the financial system.
Bernier lauds that a digital currency would allow the BoC to manipulate how Canadians spend or save money.
"For example, it will make it possible for the Bank to 'program' units of currency so that we can spend them only on some items and not others, such as those responsible for carbon emissions that the government doesn't like," he told Rebel.
Unlike cash, digital transactions leave a trail. CBDC transactions must comply with anti-money laundering and terrorist financing laws, whereas cryptocurrencies do not.
"[CBDCs] will make it easier to prevent us from giving money to certain causes that the government doesn't like — a genuine possibility after the freezing of bank accounts during the Freedom Convoy last year," continued the PPC leader. "A digital currency will be the strongest tool in the government's toolkit to control the population, and it would be extremely naive to believe that they will never use it."
On Monday, the bank pledged not to phase out cash regardless of how Ottawa moves forward on CBDCs. "Cash isn't going anywhere," it said.
Regardless, the PPC opposes its creation and would vote against it in Parliament should they hold seats in the House of Commons.