When Poilievre attacks our institutions with bitcoins


PHOTO DARRYL DYCK, THE CANADIAN PRESS

Pierre Poilievre is a candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party.

Philip Mercury

Philip Mercury
The Press

Recently, Pierre Poilievre bought a shawarma from a restaurant in London, Ontario, paying for it in bitcoins.

Posted at 5:00 a.m.

Great good for him, and we hope that the Lebanese dish prepared by the brothers Aly and Omar was up to the task.

The problem, as is often the case with the candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party, is that this highly publicized purchase was used by him as a pretext to make demagogic remarks and attack our institutions.

It could be entertaining if Mr. Poilievre wasn’t likely to lead a major federal party.

On every platform, Mr. Poilievre is now accusing the Bank of Canada of “printing money” and “devaluing the currency” by creating inflation. He promises to “give freedom back” to people by allowing them to “choose their own currency”.

All of this, of course, by “decentralizing” the economy.

It’s not just wacky. It is highly dangerous. By trying to undermine Canadians’ confidence in their central bank, Pierre Poilievre steals a page from Donald Trump’s book. He also attacked the Fed before pouring his gall on the Supreme Court, the FBI and tutti quanti.

We know it today: these verbal attacks on institutions can materialize in the physical world. In the United States, the Capitol was stormed by a horde of misinformed people. At home, the capital has been besieged for several weeks this winter – with, of course, the support of Mr. Poilievre.

Would Canada be better off today if the Bank of Canada did not exist, if the economy was “decentralized” and if everything was paid for in bitcoins rather than dollars?

Of course not.

Mr. Poilievre is attempting the laughable exercise of erasing hundreds of years of economic theory in a few populist bombshells.

Its objective is obvious: to get the most libertarian fringe of Canadians to sign Conservative Party membership cards. And for that, he is ready to sacrifice all rigor.

If the Bank of Canada injected liquidity into the economy during the pandemic, it was obviously not for the pleasure of creating inflation later. This was to ensure that the many income-deprived individuals and businesses looking to borrow money found it without encountering exorbitant interest rates. In short, to prevent a financial crisis from adding to the health crisis.

Yes, the interventions of the Bank of Canada (and those of all the central banks of the planet) have contributed to the inflation that we are experiencing today. But economists will tell you that there are many other causes for the phenomenon that have nothing to do with this institution.

  • Governments have been showering money during the pandemic, arguably too generously.
  • Unable to spend on services like travel and restaurants, citizens have flocked to goods like building materials and household appliances. The economy was unprepared for such a move, especially as supply chains were disrupted by COVID-19.
  • The invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions against Russia have reduced the supply of several essential resources.

It can certainly be argued that the Bank of Canada was slow to switch from “fighting the pandemic” mode to “fighting inflation” mode. But that’s no reason to want to wipe it off the map.

If he wants to become Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Poilievre will have to explain to us how he intends to navigate the vagaries of the economy by depriving the country of such a fundamental intervention tool as monetary policy.

He will also have to explain to us how paying all our expenses in bitcoins, a currency whose value fluctuates like the electrocardiogram of a patient in shock, will make life easier for Canadians. For the past year, bitcoin has bottomed at US$37,000 and peaked at US$84,000, going through the gamut of emotions in between.

If you find gas prices fluctuating fast, brace yourself. Because with the Poilievre doctrine, all of your purchasing power would embark on a joyful roller coaster ride.

Within months, Pierre Poilievre had supported protesters who dreamed of overthrowing the democratically elected government of Justin Trudeau for far too long. He shot without nuance on the English-language section of Radio-Canada. He is now attacking the legitimacy of the Bank of Canada.

All of this lacks seriousness. But we would be wrong to laugh about it, because we now know that the danger of populism is not to be taken lightly.

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