A Conservative lawmaker wants Justin Trudeau’s government to start taking cryptocurrency seriously, recommending his finance minister begin setting up a national framework to woo investors.

The proposal by Michelle Rempel Garner is Canada’s first legislative foray into the increasingly popular asset class. Though the nation “should be attracting billions of dollars of investment in this fast-growing industry,” it’s instead losing talent to Europe and the U.S., she said in a statement.

A so-called private member’s bill, the law Rempel Garner proposed Wednesday has a low probability of being adopted by the government. But it comes on the heels of a similar call from a top finance executive.

Mike Katchen, chief executive and co-founder of Wealthsimple Financial Inc., told a business luncheon last month Canadian policy makers should “plant a flag” on crypto as part of their efforts to diversify the nation’s resource-heavy economy. 

The bill also comes amid increasing scrutiny of digital currencies in Canada due to fundraising in Bitcoin by some organizers of the trucker convoy that’s been occupying Ottawa for nearly two weeks. The protests against vaccine mandates and other Covid-19 restrictions have spread in recent days to key U.S. border crossings like the Ambassador Bridge into Detroit.


Rempel Garner said the increasingly divisive discussion around crypto is worrying, particularly since understanding of the issue -- a relatively new and deeply complicated one -- doesn’t yet run deep among lawmakers.     

“We’re going down the same road that we did with the oil and gas sector,” she said in a phone interview Thursday. “Instead of getting the meat of the public policy debate, it very quickly became Alberta oil-sands jobs versus climate change.”

On energy policy she said “there’s totally a middle ground that industry and workers want government to be on, and we’re not because we allowed the debate to become so polarized.” She fears the same thing is happening with crypto.

Rempel Garner’s bill directs the finance minister to develop a “national framework” in consultation with industry experts that focuses in part on “lowering barriers to entry” into the sector “while protecting those working in the sector and minimizing the administrative burden.”

In drafting it, she said she purposely avoided taking a prescriptive policy position and left language around the framework purposefully broad in an effort to win support across partisan lines.

“I’m hoping that actual reasoned debate breaks out in the House of Commons,” she said.

Rempel Garner also flagged exploratory crypto efforts by central banks around the world as a motivating factor. While the Bank of Canada doesn’t yet see the need to introduce a digital currency, it has begun laying groundwork to do so in concert with its peers.  

“Parliament needs to catch up to where the Bank of Canada is going,” she said.