In a first for Canada, Conservative Party leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre is campaigning to bring Bitcoin adoption to Canadians as a way to give people control and autonomy over their own finances.
To large crowds, unprecedented for a party leadership campaign, the long-time member of parliament and Conservative finance critic said, “We need to give people the freedom to choose other money. If the government is going to abuse our cash, we should have the right to opt to use other, higher-quality cash.”
As Canadian elites watch nervously, Canadian politics is changing daily, almost beyond recognition.
Some observers have suggested that the Freedom Convoy bitcoin fundraising in February — which raised over $1 million Canadian dollars — may have accelerated the pace of interest in bitcoin.
“Crypto has become a pressing — and increasingly polarizing — issue for policymakers in government and central banking. The political tensions and regulatory questions came to the fore during the trucker convoy protests in February, when supporters tried to skirt government restrictions on donations by using cryptocurrencies.” –Mark Rendell and David Parkinson of The Globe and Mail
Pierre Poilievre’s campaign is crossing the country to packed halls everywhere he goes. His principle messages are:
- I’m running for Prime Minister to give you back control of your life and restore freedom.
- People with big titles told us we would have deflation — at the same time they printed money to cause inflation. Why should we believe them now?
- Give people back control of their lives and control over their finances.
- Take control of money away from politicians and bankers and give it back to the people.
- Make Canada the freest country on Earth.
Bitcoin is a major plank of Poilievre's campaign themes of financial security and autonomy. In his role as Conservative finance critic, Poilievre has raised Bitcoin many times in Parliament mostly to yawns and glazed eyes.
He has also argued that the combination of skyrocketing government deficits and central bank money printing will be the main cause of future inflation in Canada’s economy.
“As a member of Parliament, and as the finance critic, he has long been a thorn in the side of the Bank of Canada, challenging its execution of monetary policy and railing against its decision during the pandemic to launch a quantitative easing (QE) program, under which it has purchased more than $300 billion of its own government’s bonds.” –Rendell and Parkinson
Poilievre has said that a government led by him would extend the auditor general's authority to include the Bank of Canada and push for a review of its monetary policies.
“Mr. Poilievre has been highly critical of the Bank of Canada, accusing it of acting as an ATM for the federal government during the COVID-19 pandemic through the central bank’s government bond-buying program, also known as quantitative easing (QE). He has also mocked the institution for incorrect inflation forecasts over the past two years, and recently called it “financially illiterate,” added Rendell and Ian Bailey of The Globe and Mail.
Poilievre has said he will oppose a CBDC, arguing it would give the government more power to surveil people’s spending and public digital currencies would compete with commercial bank deposits.
The Bank of Canada has been working on a digital currency pegged to the value of the Canadian dollar for several years and is waiting for a decision from the federal government on whether to go ahead.
Bringing Bitcoiners On Board
I spoke with some prominent Bitcoiners to get their take on Poilievre’s candidacy.
“I’m watching the Pierre Poilievre campaign with interest. Poilievre seems to understand the importance of bitcoin and its potential, both as an asset and as a future currency. He also seems to understand the importance of issues like the government’s monetary policies to fight inflation such as quantitative easing.”
Jonathan Hamel, a Montreal-based bitcoin analyst and investor who is a close observer of the political scene, told us that in Quebec, where politics is often different from the rest of Canada, the crowds coming to see Poilievre are equally large and enthusiastic.
In an interview Hamel told us:
“When I was invited to speak in front of the House of Commons Finance Committee in 2018, as a member, Pierre Poilievre was the only MP who showed real interest and asked pertinent questions.”
BTCsessions is a Calgary-based bitcoin advocate and podcaster providing help and advice to Bitcoiners on his website.
"When it comes to Poilievre, I am cautiously optimistic,” he says. “I've been disillusioned by politics, as have many Bitcoiners,” he told Bitcoin Magazine.
“However, I'm encouraged by Pierre's knowledge of monetary history and the pitfalls of indiscriminate money printing, as well as his continuously refined messaging around Bitcoin itself.”
“Poilievre seems well informed about bitcoin, a complicated subject and is clear about the different kinds of ‘crypto,’” BTCsessions added.
Hamel sees Poilievre’s campaign as part of a new conservatism that is sweeping across Canada. Asked whether he thinks Poilievre can sell bitcoin adoption to Canadians, he said, “Poilievre’s support for Bitcoin contributes to his appeal as a ‘refreshing’ new generation conservative voice.”
“The support for ‘sound money’ is a bigger question — for the first time in history, people are realizing there’s a link between central banks’ policies and the dilution of their purchasing power [inflation]. It’s not a fringe ‘gold bugs’ or libertarian issue anymore. Poilievre seems very committed to that.”
Victory Is Not In The Bag
Despite the fact that Poilievre is bringing out crowds that are unprecedented in a party leadership campaign, the Conservative’s rules are complicated.
Unlike a general election, a Conservative Party leadership race uses instant-runoff voting (IRV) — a type of ranked preferential vote counting method also sometimes referred to as alternative or preferential voting.
Each federal riding can score a maximum of 100 points and at least one other candidate has suggested they could get 100 points per riding while Poilievre may have more votes in concentration but not necessarily distributed equally across all 338 ridings.
To vote, supporters have to sign up for a party membership before June 3. The vote will be September 10, 2022.
What Happens Next
The expression, “A week is a long time in politics,” can hardly express the frustration of Canadians as they have to wait until 2025 before they can vote for a new federal government.
The next election is likely at least three years away, as the governing Liberals have made a deal with another party, the NDP, to keep them in power until at least June 2025.
The Liberal government is hoping this will give them time to get more homes built and for the current spike in inflation to work itself out.
According to Hamel, “From what I can tell, there is a lot of interest around Poilievre’s campaign not only for his Bitcoin stance but for his proposals in general.”
“Poilievre represents the renewal of the conservative movement (it’s now ‘cool’ to be conservative). It’s becoming the ‘counter-culture’ on campuses but also in alternative media. Basically what progressives were in the 2000s,” he added.
A commentary from the Washington Post said that in Canada, it’s often treated as a fact of life that political parties will be unimpressive and unambitious, and that Canadians, when they vote at all, will do so more out of rote partisan loyalty than any conviction they’re actually affecting the course of their country.”
It added, “To Conservatives filling his rallies, casting a ballot for Poilievre is a vote to snap out of this cycle, and thus the most exciting vote they’ve cast in years.”
Greg Foss is a longtime financial expert and bitcoin strategist with Validus Power. Along with other Bitcoiners, Foss is watching the Poilievre campaign with interest:
“As far as I can tell Poilievre is a true believer in his mission to give Canadians control over their own finances. It’s unusual to see a politician be so direct about his convictions.”
Meanwhile longtime commentator Rex Murphy is amazed at the transformation of Canadian politics in a relatively short time from tedious to excitement over a new policy direction.
“It is not the Wedding Feast at Cana but to some it’s close to an equal transformation. It belongs in the category of things, like turning water to wine, that are not supposed to happen, things which defy the common order of nature.”