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Experts say the private member’s bill on cryptocurrency regulation is a step in the right direction for Canada to catch up to other countries.DADO RUVIC/Reuters

The Conservatives are calling on the federal government to create a national framework for growing the cryptocurrency industry, in what is the first bill tabled in the House of Commons aimed directly at the rapidly developing sector.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner introduced the private member’s bill on Wednesday. It directs Canada’s Finance Minister to create a framework within three years to grow the cryptocurrency sector in Canada and reduce the administrative burden for those working in it. It specifically calls on the minister to consult with crypto experts in drafting the plan but does not set out what policy direction to take.

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In an interview, Ms. Rempel Garner said the bill is needed because the crypto industry has shown dramatic growth in recent years and has the potential for more. At the same time, she said, public officials and lawmakers lack an understanding of the field, and it is her hope that the process outlined in the bill would bridge the gap between the public and private sectors on this issue.

“Rather than taking a prescriptive policy approach – because I think there isn’t necessarily consensus – what I tried to do is give people who are working in the space a chance to drive the bus in developing the policy,” Ms. Rempel Garner said.

She said it is also her hope that by keeping the process open for now, the bill could attract support from other parties.

Erica Pimentel, a professor at Smith School of Business at Queen’s University who studies cryptocurrency, said the private member’s bill is a step in the right direction for Canada to catch up to other countries.

Michelle Rempel Garner attends a press conference in Ottawa on Jan. 29, 2020. Ms. Rempell Garner says public officials and lawmakers lack an understanding of the cryptocurrency industry, and she hopes the process outlined in the bill would bridge the gap between the public and private sectors on this issue.BLAIR GABLE/Reuters

“It opens the floor to an increasingly important conversation that has yet to be had appropriately on Parliament Hill,” Prof. Pimentel said.

However, she said, the lack of detail in the bill could cause the process to drag out, making it harder to achieve policy in a meaningful timeframe.

Cryptocurrency has become increasingly talked about on Parliament Hill. The organizers of the Ottawa protest that has effectively shut down the city’s downtown have had to turn to cryptocurrency for their fundraising, after being barred from more traditional crowdfunding platforms.

As well, the topic has come up in the government’s continuing prebudget consultations. Last month, the finance committee heard testimony from the owner of a chain of restaurants, who urged the government to buy $10-billion of bitcoin and make the digital asset legal tender just like the Canadian dollar.

The bill is expected to receive more debate in the coming months and a vote before the summer.

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