Bank of Canada launches public consultations on digital C$

FILE PHOTO: A sign is pictured outside the Bank of Canada building in Ottawa

By Ismail Shakil

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Bank of Canada (BoC) on Monday launched public consultations on the features that could be included in a digital Canadian dollar, in an exploratory move to gauge the viability of a digital version of the currency.

"As the world becomes increasingly digital, the Bank - like many other central banks - is exploring a digital version of Canada's national currency," the central bank said in a statement. The consultation runs until June 19.

Central banks across the world are studying digital versions of their currencies to avoid leaving digital payments to the private sector as the decline of cash has accelerated in some cases due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

China has been a leader among countries that are developing central bank digital currencies (CBDC), although adoption is still in the early stages. The central banks of Japan, Brazil and Australia have also taken steps toward launching a digital token.

Policymakers in the United States have been divided, with Federal Reserve Governor Christopher Waller among skeptics.

"A digital Canadian dollar would ensure Canadians always have an official, safe, and stable digital payment option issued by Canada’s central bank," the BoC said.

The bank, however, said that a digital Canadian dollar was not currently needed, and any decision to issue one would have to be taken by Canada's parliament and government.

"If a digital Canadian dollar is issued in the future, the Bank will continue to provide bank notes for those who want them," it said. "Cash isn't going anywhere."

Pierre Poilievre, the leader of Canada's opposition Conservatives, has said he would ban the BoC from issuing a CBDC if he became prime minister.

The ruling Liberals have the support of the left-leaning New Democrats to keep Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's minority government in power until the fall of 2025, unless an election is called earlier.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Ottawa; Editing by Steve Scherer and Mark Potter)