Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner’s private member’s bill calling for a national framework to promote the growth of the cryptocurrency sector was defeated in the House of Commons on Wednesday.
By a vote of 199 to 119, the legislation was voted down on second reading, meaning it will not proceed to further study or debate. Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre and his caucus voted to see the bill go ahead, as did a few liberal and independent MPs.
Bill C-249 — “An Act respecting the encouragement of the growth of the crypto-active sector,” as it was titled — called on Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland to “develop a national framework to promote the growth of the crypto-active sector.”
The five-page piece of legislation also called on the government to consult those working in the sector in the development of this framework.
Citing how “cryptoassets have significant economic and innovative potential for Canada,” Rempel Garner sought to have a federal crypto-sector policy focused on lowering barriers to entry and protecting those working in the sector.
Amid heightened attention over Poilievre’s controversial crypto comments during the party’s leadership race, the legislation became something of a lightning rod in the House of Commons.
During the 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 repeatedly referring back to Poilievre’s promotion of cryptocurrency.
“I am somewhat surprised that the Conservative Party has legislation dealing with cryptocurrency. Members will remember that not so long ago the leader of the Conservative Party said that one of the best ways to combat inflation in Canada on would be investing 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 loss of 60 percent or more.”
Bloc Quebecois MP Maxime Blanchette called the sector “more ideologically driven than factual” before going on to say: “It’s no secret that the new leader of Canada’s Conservative Party dreams of bitcoin and other crypto-active fantasies at night.
“There are still many issues that require us as decision-makers to act with caution and care 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 view crypto-assets through rose-colored glasses, the Bloc Quebecois prefers to focus on transparency and accountability.”
NDP MP Charlie Angus focused on Poilievre’s comments, suggesting that some of the inflation- and affordability-focused spending measures the federal government has advanced with NDP support, such as the doubling of the GST tax credit, would “evaporate.” Reversing this, Angus pointed out how after the latest FTX cryptocurrency exchange collapsebillions were “vaporized”.
“Before we start promoting these kinds of risky financial rushes, we need to ask what rules are in place to protect people and their savings and have proper oversight. This is something the leader of the Conservative Party refuses to do and he has to be accountable for it,” Angus continued to say as he thanked Rempel Garner for trying to foster a conversation about setting a framework for the sector.
Attempting to defend his motion, Rempel Garner closed the debate, expressing frustration at how the issue had been politicized. She pointed to her education in economics and argued why her efforts with this bill were to pursue safeguards for the sector.
“When Bernie Madoff ran his Ponzi scheme, we didn’t seek to ban email or ban phones because he used them to lure victims, and we didn’t try to smear the entire investment services industry because of one bad actor. What we did , was to seek to strengthen safeguards to ensure that bad governance and ‘too good to be true’ schemes did not take place anymore. We tried to educate people so that they would not be lured into schemes and most importantly “We said we need to do these things so that this sector, which is important to our economy, can continue to grow,” she said. “I don’t want to look back in 10 years on this debate and say we missed an opportunity.”
In the federal budget for 2023, the federal government committed to launch consultations on cryptocurrency, recognizing the growing interest in the potential future of the sector, delving into the stability and security of the digitalization of money.
In the Autumn Economic Update, Freeland announced that these consultations had begun, with the first phase of the review targeting digital currencies, including cryptocurrencies, stablecoins and central bank digital currencies.