The Bank of Canada is moving out of its research phase into a central bank digital currency and going into the development phase, its governor said on Dec. 12, with consultations on the issue to take place with Canadians in 2023.
“I think over time, it is conceivable that in a more digital economy, it might make sense to give Canadians the ability to hold central bank money in digital format. So we’re making sure we’re getting ready,” Bank of Canada (BoC) Governor Tiff Macklem said in his year-end address hosted by the Business Council of British Columbia.
“We did a lot of research into what a central bank digital currency would mean, how to design one, and we’re now moving more from the sort of ‘R’ part of R&D [Research and Development] to the ‘D’ part and moving into developments.”
Macklem said the decision to move to adopt a central bank digital currency (CBDC) would not come from the BoC but rather from Parliament.
Macklem gave a speech centred around inflation and the actions taken by the central bank to bring it under control, but he also addressed the topic of CBDC during a “fireside chat” after his speech.
The governor explained some of the factors that could lead to Canada adopting a digital currency, including if there was a rapid decline in the demand for physical banknotes.
Another factor would be if a stable private sector coin not denominated in Canadian dollars became broadly used.
Macklem said these scenarios could lead to Canada losing its monetary sovereignty.
But on these two cases, the governor said these situations haven’t reached that point.
“Just to be clear, demand for banknotes actually continues to rise. It’s not rising, as quickly as nominal GDP, but it is continuing to rise. It’s certainly not collapsing,” said Macklem.
He also said that Facebook’s (now Meta) attempt to create a currency with Diem is “pretty much a dead project.”
Early this year the assets of the Diem cryptocurrency venture were sold by Meta.
Some of the questions Macklem said the consultations will look into include “what are Canadians’ interests in a digital currency, what are their expectations, and what sort of elements would be important to them.”
Macklem had premised what he said on CBDC by first criticizing other forms of cryptocurrencies, saying they’re “incredibly volatile” and “not very good stores of value.”
“Most of the activity in crypto is largely speculative investment,” he said.
The Bank of Canada’s website says that if a CBDC were issued, “individuals and businesses could use it to pay for products or services using a mobile phone or a special card or device.”
“It would be like cash but with the added benefit of being able to be used online.”
Those activities can already be conducted using bank and credit cards and smartphone applications.