MPs used the debate on Bill C-249 — a private member bill first introduced by Conservative Congressman Michelle Rempel Garner — to read past statements by Poilievre praising cryptocurrency in the minutes and said he accused of promoting what some called a “Ponzi scheme” that lost money for scores of investors.
With cryptocurrency prices falling after a series of recent scandals, Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux said he was surprised that the Conservative Party is now pushing for legislation aimed at encouraging growth of the sector in Canada.
“How many seniors with fixed incomes have used part of their life savings to invest in something that was recommended by the leader of Canada’s official opposition party?” said Lamoureux, parliamentary secretary to the House group leader.
“The leader said one of the best ways to fight inflation here in Canada is to invest in cryptocurrency. Imagine all those conservative delegates and maybe others who could have listened to the conservative leader?”
“Imagine all the seniors who listened to the conservative leader?” added another liberal deputy, Stéphane Lauzon. “Where would they be now?”
Polievre was not in the House of Commons for the debate.
Bitcoin is trading at around US$16,000, 75% less than its value in November 2021.
This means that if you invested $10,000 in bitcoin this time last year, you would only have $2,500 left of that initial investment – a staggering loss in value for any financial product.
According to a filing from the federal ethics commissioner, Poilievre had held an investment in bitcoin since May 4.
He declared an ownership stake in the Purpose bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF), an investment that closely tracks the price of bitcoin. If Poilievre still owns a chunk of that ETF, his investment would be worth 60% less than it traded for in May when he first disclosed the holding.
“The leader is showing a lack of common sense by not coming forward and telling Canadians, ‘I made a mistake,’ that it was not appropriate for people to invest, to speculate,” Lamoureux said.
Lamoureux asked the assembled Conservative MPs to raise their hands if they invested in cryptocurrencies after Poilievre launched bitcoin during his leadership campaign. No one seemed to raise their hand.
Liberal MPs have also bought cryptocurrencies
But Poilievre is not the only MEP to declare ownership stake in cryptocurrencies.
Had Lamoureux asked the same question of MPs on the Liberal benches, he might have seen more hands raised.
Liberal MPs Joël Lightbound, Taleeb Farouk Noormohamed, Terry Beech, Tony Van Bynen and Chandra Arya have all reported certain crypto-related investments to the ethics commissioner. Conservative MP Ben Lobb has also declared a stake in bitcoin.
While liberal MPs have raised the possibility of older adults losing money on bitcoin and other crypto products, research from the Bank of Canada suggests that the demographic likely to have lost the most in the recent cryptocurrency crash were younger men.
According to the Bank of Canada’s bitcoin omnibus surveys, about 13% of Canadians owned some sort of bitcoin investment in 2021, an increase from 5% the previous year.
Bitcoin holders were more likely to be male, between the ages of 18 and 34, with a college degree or high income, according to the survey.
“Hot Job Economics”
The survey found that 25.6% of Canadians aged 18 to 34 owned bitcoins last year. Only 2.8% of people over the age of 55 had a stake in bitcoin.
NDP MP Charlie Angus said Poilievre had been pursuing “the kick-ass job economy” by backing a product that has “vaporized” dollars invested in recent months.
Beyond its poor price performance, Angus said cryptocurrencies are a “dark money system” that can be used for money laundering, funding terrorist organizations, and supporting gang activity.
“Who else would want a system where there are no checks and balances and where you can’t track where the money goes?” Angus said.
As criminal elements turn to cryptocurrencies to launder money, some countries, including Mexico, have passed laws forcing trading platforms to track certain large dollar-value transactions.
A 2022 report from blockchain data firm Chainalysis found that criminals laundered an estimated $8.6 billion in cryptocurrency last year, a number that is likely a low figure because it doesn’t include cash from offline crimes such as cash. from drug trafficking.
Angus took up Poilievre’s campaign slogan – the then leader hopeful said he wanted to make Canada the “freest country on earth” – to say that the Conservative leader encouraged “the freedom to cheat, the freedom to cheat and the freedom to rob people of their savings.
Angus said it was “highly irresponsible” for Poilievre to push cryptocurrencies when he owned bitcoin assets himself. “He fed off people’s fear and uncertainty by promoting a Ponzi scheme,” Angus said.
The bill’s sponsor, Rempel Garner, said the recent cryptocurrency struggles are exactly why lawmakers need to develop a federal regulatory framework for this asset class.
The bill, if passed, would oblige Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland to consult with the industry and “develop a national framework to encourage growth in the cryptocurrency sector.”
If Canada doesn’t act, Rempel Garner said, cryptocurrency companies will take their business elsewhere, which could cost them jobs and investment dollars.
“I want you to understand what investors feel when they hear this debate,” he said. “They say, ‘Don’t invest in Canada because politicians in Parliament are willing to take cheap political points.'”
Rempel Garner pointed to Vitalik Buterin, the Russian-born Canadian who co-developed ethereum, the second largest cryptocurrency platform.
Much of ethereum’s early development took place in Canada, he said, but its operations have since moved to Switzerland because that country has a regulatory framework in place.
“All those jobs, all that capital — it’s gone,” he said.
Rempel Garner said he doesn’t want Canada to lose the chance to normalize cryptocurrency because of “partisanship.”
Conservative MP Larry Maguire made a similar point, arguing the legislation will help the federal government “protect investors” and establish “guardrails” and “stability” for a multibillion-dollar industry.
“There is no better time for Parliament to start this conversation. We cannot let this issue become so polarized that it gets to the point where it is too toxic to discuss,” he said, adding that it would be “short-sighted” and “thoughtless.”