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Bank of Canada asks for public feedback about a national digital currency

Although it says ‘a digital Canadian dollar is not needed’ right now, it wants to be ready in case it ever is.

Chris Wattie / reuters

The Bank of Canada wants the public’s opinions on a potential digital Canadian dollar. Although the country’s central bank says a national digital currency isn’t yet needed, it wants to remain flexible and ready should that ever change.

“As Canada’s central bank, we want to make sure everyone can always take part in our country’s economy. That means being ready for whatever the future holds,” said Senior Deputy Governor Carolyn Rogers in a press release published today. The bank cites the diminishing use of cash, potential competition with cryptocurrencies and national economic stability as reasons to prepare for the potential shift.

“The Bank has been providing bank notes to Canadians for more than 85 years,” its announcement states. “Cash is a safe, accessible and trusted method of payment that anyone can use, including people who don’t have a bank account, a credit score or official identification documents. However, there may come a time when bank notes are not widely used in day-to-day transactions, which could risk excluding many Canadians from taking part in the economy.”

Although cryptocurrency is less of a threat to traditional financial institutions after last year’s epic collapses, it’s still a looming danger that likely motivated this move. If decentralized currencies ever became widely enough used to reduce demand for the Canadian dollar, that could threaten the bank’s (and government’s) ability to assert control over the economy, maintain stability and implement policies. “A digital Canadian dollar would ensure Canadians always have an official, safe, and stable digital payment option issued by Canada’s central bank,” the bank says. But it also emphasized that, even if it eventually launched a national digital currency, it would still issue bank notes for anyone who wants them. “Cash isn’t going anywhere,” it unequivocally states.

The survey is a standard online questionnaire about how Canadians would likely use digital currency, which security features are essential, and their concerns about accessibility and privacy. “We want to hear from Canadians about what they value most in the design of a digital dollar. This will help us make design choices and ensure that it is secure, reliable and meets the needs of Canadians,” said Rogers. The bank says Canadians’ feedback “will be kept anonymous, confidential, and be reported in aggregate only.”