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Bank Of Canada Studying Issues Around Introducing A Digital Currency

Bitcoin ATM in Portland, Oregon. Image: iStock.

CALGARY — The Bank of Canada is looking at the key questions around the design of a digital currency and the issues surrounding such an idea, a senior Bank of Canada official said Monday.

However, deputy governor Timothy Lane told a University of Calgary audience that unless the risks associated with a central bank digital currency can be managed through appropriate design, the bank would not recommend issuing such a currency.

“The design of a CBDC has important implications for its risk and benefits,” Lane said according to the prepared text of his speech released in Ottawa.

“Some major reasons for caution about a central bank digital currency are concerns that it could become a vehicle for illicit transactions or that it could have significant negative implications for financial intermediation.”

Lane said the central bank uses the term crypto assets to describe cryptocurrencies because they do not do a good job of performing the basic functions of money. The value of bitcoin has swung wildly with it topping $20,000 (U.S.) last year and now trading around $6,000 (U.S.).

However, Lane said, as cryptocurrencies evolve they may touch on the central bank’s core functions including monetary policy, financial stability, payments and currency.

He said the Bank of Canada is not responsible for regulating cryptocurrencies, but it has been examining the potential impact on the stability of the financial system.

Earlier this year, Bank of Canada senior deputy governor Carolyn Wilkins called on authorities to work toward a set of globally aligned policies governing cryptocurrencies. She said it was important to have a strategy on crypto assets that was as consistent as possible across countries.

Lane said that differences in regulations around the world, together with the incompleteness of regulation in many jurisdictions leaves open room for regulatory arbitrage.

“Differences in the regulatory treatment of these products for controlling money laundering and terrorist financing are a particularly pressing concern,” he said.

Lane noted that they do not yet pose financial stability risks, but things are evolving rapidly as crypto assets grow in size, complexity and interconnectedness.

“As the underlying technologies and the design of crypto products evolve, we need to be ready to reassess how they might affect financial stability,” he said.

“Some potential aspects include the integrity of payment systems, bank business models, and the exposures of financial institutions and infrastructures.”

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The Canadian Press