Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner’s private member’s bill calling for a national framework to encourage growth in the cryptocurrency sector was defeated in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
By a vote of 199 to 119, the legislation was voted down at second reading, meaning it won’t move ahead for further study or debate. Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and his caucus voted in favour of seeing the bill advance, as did a few Liberal and Independent MPs.
Bill C-249—”An Act respecting the encouragement of the growth of the cryptoasset sector,” as it was titled—called for Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland to “develop a national framework to encourage the growth of the cryptoasset sector.”
The five-page piece of legislation also called for the government, in developing this framework, to consult those working in the sector.
Citing how “cryptoassets have significant economic and innovative potential for Canada,” Rempel Garner was seeking to have a federal crypto-sector policy that focused on lowering barriers to entry and protecting those working in the sector.
Amid heightened attention over Poilievre’s contentious crypto comments during the party’s leadership race, the legislation became a bit of a lightning rod in the House of Commons.
During debate on the bill on Monday, the battle lines became clear as Liberal, NDP and Bloc Quebecois MPs voiced their opposition to the legislation, while making repeated references back to Poilievre’s promotion of cryptocurrency.
“I am somewhat surprised that the Conservative Party has legislation that deals with cryptocurrency. Members can recall that not that long ago the leader of the Conservative Party said that one of the best ways to fight inflation in Canada would be to invest in cryptocurrency,” said Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux. “Imagine those… who listened to the leader of the Conservative Party and invested in cryptocurrency… would have suffered a 60 per cent loss or higher.”
Bloc Quebecois MP Maxime Blanchette called the sector “more ideology-driven than factual” before going on to say, “It is no secret that the new leader of the Conservative Party of Canada dreams of bitcoin and other cryptoasset fantasies at night.
“There are still many issues that require us, as decision-makers, to act with caution and diligence in this matter. The first issue is, of course, the volatility of cryptocurrencies, which is still extremely high and often inexplicable,” Blanchette said. “Unlike the Leader of the Conservative Party and his party members, who seem to be looking at cryptoassets through rose-coloured glasses, the Bloc Quebecois prefers to focus on transparency and responsibility.”
NDP MP Charlie Angus focused in on Poilievre’s comments suggesting that some of the inflation and affordability-focused spending measures the federal government has advanced with the backing of the NDP, such as the doubling of the GST tax credit, would “vaporize.” Turning this around, Angus pointed out how after the recent FTX cryptocurrency exchange collapse, billions were “vaporized.”
“Before we start promoting these kinds of dodgy financial hustles, we need to ask what rules are in place to protect people and their savings and to have proper oversight. That is something the leader of the Conservative Party refuses to do and he needs to be accountable for it,” Angus went on to say, while thanking Rempel Garner for trying to advance a conversation around putting in a framework for the sector.
Seeking to defend her proposal, Rempel Garner rounded out the debate expressing frustration over how the topic had become politicized. Pointing to her degree in economics, she made the case for why her efforts with this bill were to pursue safeguards for the sector.
“When Bernie Madoff ran his Ponzi scheme, we did not seek to ban email or ban phones because he used those to lure victims, and we did not try to vilify the entire investment services industry because of one bad actor. What we did was seek to strengthen safeguards to ensure that bad governance and ‘too good to be true’ schemes were not taking place anymore. We sought to educate people so they would not be lured into schemes, and most importantly, we said we need to do these things so this sector that is important to our economy can continue to grow,” she said. “I do not want to look back in 10 years on this debate and say we missed an opportunity.”
In the 2023 federal budget the federal government committed to launching consultations on cryptocurrency, acknowledging the growing interest in the potential future of the sector, diving into the stability and security of the digitalization of money.
In the fall economic update, Freeland announced that those consultations were beginning, with the first phase of the review directed at digital currencies, including cryptocurrencies, stablecoins, and central bank digital currencies.