In a speech to cryptocurrency investors, Poilievre says he wants Canada to be the “blockchain capital of the world”

Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre said Monday that a government led by him would do more to normalize cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ethereum in Canada to “decentralize” the economy and reduce the influence of central bankers.

Since the advent of bitcoin in 2013, a number of right-wing and libertarian-minded investors have championed cryptocurrency – a largely unregulated financial instrument in the Western world – as a way to reduce government control over the money, as the supply of cryptocurrency tokens is not set by an authority like the Bank of Canada or the US Federal Reserve.

With its supply limited to just 21 million tokens, bitcoin boosters insist the cryptocurrency is a hedge against inflation.

Speaking at a shawarma store in London, Ontario. which accepts bitcoin as payment, Poilievre said that during the COVID-19 crisis, the Bank of Canada created “$400 billion in cash out of thin air” through its quantitative easing policy – a development he attributes to inflation hitting 30-year highs and house prices hitting record highs.

As it did during the Great Recession, the central bank has embraced quantitative easing over the past two years to stimulate lending and spending during times of financial panic.

As the party’s finance critic, Poilievre has spoken out against the policy because, like some conservative economists, he considers the government’s ability to print money – which can devalue dollars. existing – as a form of taxation.

“The government is ruining the Canadian dollar, so Canadians should have the freedom to use other currencies, like bitcoin,” Poilievre said Monday.

“Canada needs less financial control for politicians and bankers and more financial freedom for the people. This includes freedom to own and use crypto, tokens, smart contracts and decentralized finance. “

An advertisement for the Bitcoin cryptocurrency is displayed on a street in Hong Kong on February 17, 2022. (Kin Cheung/AP Photo)

Poilievre’s description of cryptocurrencies is similar to what conservatives of another era said of the gold standard – a policy of fixing the value of a country’s currency directly to gold to limit the money supply. The gold standard was abandoned by all major economies in the 20th century because it proved too volatile and limited a government’s ability to respond to economic crises.

Poilievre said if elected prime minister he would “keep crypto legal and reject a Chinese-style crackdown.” The Chinese government has banned cryptocurrencies because it says bitcoin and similar products could destabilize existing financial systems and fuel fraud and money laundering.

Securities regulation falls under provincial jurisdiction. Poilievre said he would work with provinces and territories to eliminate a “cobweb of conflicting rules” that govern crypto and blockchain – the system that records transactions in bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies.

Poilievre said he also wants crypto to be treated like gold and other commodities for tax purposes.

Poilievre said he wanted to foster “a new bottom-up, decentralized economy” by creating a more permissive regulatory environment.

“Choice and competition can give Canadians better financial and financial products. Not only that, but it can also allow Canadians to opt out of inflation with the option of opting into cryptocurrencies. It’s time that Canadians take back control of their money and their lives by making Canada the freest country in the world,” said Poilievre.

The value of bitcoin has increased significantly over the past two years of the pandemic as individual investors poured cash and other cryptocurrencies into it.

But bitcoin has seen a volatile run in recent months as central banks raised interest rates to combat pandemic-induced inflation, making speculative investing less attractive. The price of bitcoin has fallen around 30% since its peak in November 2021.

Bitcoin has also been criticized by some big investors like Warren Buffett, the billionaire chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, and his business partner, Charlie Munger. They argue that these types of financial tools have the potential to crash, wiping out tens of billions of dollars in wealth for casual buyers.

Crypto is an “illusion”, says Buffett

Buffett and Munger argue that bitcoin’s value is purely the product of speculation.

“Bitcoin is ingenious but it has no unique value. It produces nothing. You can stare at it all day and no little bitcoin comes out. It’s an illusion, basically,” Buffett said in an interview with 2019 with CNBC, adding that it’s like “rat poison” for investors.

“What you’re hoping for is someone else showing up and paying you more money later, but that person has the problem. In terms of value, it’s zero.”

Renowned investor Warren Buffett has described bitcoin as “rat poison” for investors. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The dark nature of money is also a source of concern for some.

“I resent a currency so useful to kidnappers and extortionists,” Munger said last year. “All this fucking development is disgusting and against the interests of civilization.”

Poilievre’s penchant for bitcoin is well documented. Last fall, Poilievre said he disclosed his cryptocurrency holdings to the federal Ethics Commissioner.

While anti-vaccine protesters associated with the so-called “freedom convoy” were in downtown Ottawa earlier this year, the The Toronto Star reported Poilievre had “frequent” conversations with Greg Foss, a prominent Canadian bitcoin investor who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency to fuel the anti-vaccine movement.

Police enforce an injunction against anti-vaccine warrant protesters in downtown Ottawa on February 19, 2022. Some of the fundraising for the convoy protest was done through cryptocurrencies. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

In February, Poilievre appeared on a cryptocurrency podcast hosted by a bitcoin trader that promoted COVID-19 conspiracies and compared central bank policies to slavery and Nazi Germany.

Poilievre told show host Robert Breedlove that he and his wife occasionally watch his cryptocurrency YouTube channel “late into the night.”

“I find it extremely educational and my wife and I have been known to watch YouTube and your channel late at night after we put the kids to bed,” Poilievre said. “And, I’ve always enjoyed and learned a lot about bitcoin and other monetary issues from listening to you.”