Why Pierre Poilievre has been embraced by Bitcoin believers — including one who’s raising funds for the ‘Freedom Convoy’
Read this article for free:
Already have an account? Log in here »
To continue reading, please subscribe with this special offer:
All-Access Digital Subscription
$1.50 for 150 days*
- Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
- Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
- Access News Break, our award-winning app
- Play interactive puzzles
*Pay $1.50 for the first 22 weeks of your subscription. After 22 weeks, price increases to the regular rate of $19.00 per month. GST will be added to each payment. Subscription can be cancelled after the first 22 weeks.
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/02/2022 (231 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The man who would be Canada’s next prime minister is being embraced by a community of Bitcoin enthusiasts who believe inflation is killing the economy and that using the cryptocurrency to create an alternative financial system can help save it.
Following speeches targeting the Bank of Canada, tweets and public statements, Pierre Poilievre seems to have reeled in a significant amount of online support from Bitcoin evangelists.
That includes some who view Bitcoin as a solution to the funding woes of the “Freedom Convoy” that’s currently occupying the nation’s capital.
Greg Foss, one of the men behind the HonkHonk Hodl campaign that has raised more than $830,000 in Bitcoin, says he has spoken to the Conservative party leadership hopeful “somewhat frequently,” and hopes Poilievre would consider him a friend.
Speaking to the Star, Foss said that while he has never met Poilievre in person, he coaches the MP for the Ottawa-area riding of Carleton on investing. The two share concerns about the economy, Foss said — and a belief that cryptocurrency may be part of the answer.
“I have talked with Pierre over time with respect to sound money,” Foss said. “He is a sound money enthusiast.”
Foss also said Poilievre is not involved in the fundraising effort, and that the two have not spoken since the protest in Ottawa began.
Poilievre did not respond to questions for this story.
Months worth of speeches and public statements by Poilievre targeting the Bank of Canada over inflation are, it’s clear, being interpreted by a small but significant corner of the internet as not-so-subtle references to the potential usefulness of Bitcoin.
Hardcore Bitcoin advocates see Poilievre as an ally in their attempt to “orange pill” the world and to create an alternative financial system.
While Poilievre has not made any policy statements about Bitcoin, he said during a September video town hall that he has disclosed his crypto-investments to the federal ethics commissioner. Information about those filings has not been made public yet.
“I think that this is, overall, a positive development,” Poilievre said of the increasing availability of Bitcoin investments during the town hall. “It’s giving people the opportunity to protect themselves against government-induced inflation and hopefully providing some healthy competition for the government monopoly on our cash.
“Be ready, though, because as these alternative assets gain steam and governments feel they’re a threat to their monopoly, they will look for every excuse in the book to try to ban it regulate it, get in the way.”
The term “orange pilled” is used in the bitcoin subculture as a play on taking a “red pill” — a concept of made popular in the 1999 film The Matrix and alluding to allowing someone to see through lies to understand the truth about the world. It has also become a popular metaphor among some right-wing groups.
In Bitcoin-speak, an orange-pilled person sees inflation as caused by national banks printing money and government spending, and people storing their savings in cryptocurrencies as one of the solutions.
They sometimes signal their orange-pilled status to one another on social media by photoshopping lasers onto their eyes in profile photos.
And the crowd of the orange-pilled has made a hero of Poilievre.
Poilievre this week went on a podcast that advertises Bitcoin as “the single most important asset you could own.”
In speeches in the House of Commons and on social media, Poilievre has liberally employed the language of “sound money” and out-of-control inflation, garnering millions of views from high-profile Bitcoin advocates who view these statements as references to creating an alternative financial system built on Bitcoin.
One speech that Poilievre delivered in the House of Commons on Dec. 10, in which he referred to money as a “technology” to transport value, was viewed 100,000 times when the politician initially shared it on YouTube. After he reshared the video on Jan. 16 with the caption “What is Money?” the clip was shared by some of the biggest Bitcoin advocates in the world, and drew 2.2 million views. “What is Money” is also the name of the podcast on which Poilievre was a guest this week. The host, Breedlove, describes himself as a “freedom maximalist.”
Poilievre tweeted at one of the sharers of the video, Saifedean Ammous, to say the speech was inspired by his books: The most popular being the Bitcoin-Bible “The Bitcoin Standard.”
Ammous has since retweeted Poilievre’s speech announcing his candidacy for Conservative leader, including one retweet of a comment that stated “I’ll vote for (Pierre Poilievre). Pierre as PM is the path for Canada to adopt a (bitcoin) standard.”
There is a broad potential audience for Poilievre’s remarks. The Bank of Canada says five per cent of Canadians own Bitcoin, and a poll conducted by Ipsos with a margin of error of 2.1 percentage points found a quarter of Canadians were interested in the cryptocurrency. A Bank of Canada study based on 2018 data showed Bitcoin was more popular among Canadian youth and men.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are irreplicable codes that are generated online and can be traded through a publicly accessible database known as the Blockchain. There is a finite number of each cryptocurrency that can be found, or “mined,” and people buy them when they expect their value will rise due to scarcity.
Foss puts it this way: “Bitcoin can save Canada.”
The HonkHonk fundraiser for the “Freedom Convoy” of truckers and supporters protesting COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates was launched Feb. 2 — two days before the original GoFundMe campaign, which raised more than $10 million, was shut down following concerns raised by Ottawa police.
The fundraiser has a companion blog, which outlines how Canada’s current form of government should be replaced with “elder councils” that hold lying politicians to account and that the “legacy media” needs to be “eliminated.”
Poilievre said in a podcast interview this week that he did not know anything about the fundraising efforts for the “Freedom Convoy,” when asked about the GoFundMe fundraiser and subsequent efforts to raise funds using Bitcoin.
“I’m not personally involved with the organization of it, I’m just giving my support to individual truckers who are standing up for their livelihoods,” Poilievre said, speaking to podcaster Robert Breedlove.
Jeff Booth, a popular Bitcoin author and one of the HonkHonk members, who had appeared before a finance committee meeting in May 2020, praised Poilievre’s speech for its “unique and interesting perspective.”
In an interview, however, Booth said he is “not political at all” and while he has spoken to Poilievre and believes he was asked to appear before the finance committee because the MP read his book The Price of Tomorrow, the two aren’t friends.
Booth says his involvement with the fundraiser for the “Freedom Convoy” has “nothing to do with the truckers, specifically.” He said he joined the group at Foss’s request to ensure no one person controlled the money.
Booth said he aligns with some, but not all, of the ideas on the HonkHonk blog.
“I just think about it in this way: When I don’t agree with the subject and somebody else disagrees with me, do I advocate for them to be able to serve and still stand up and peacefully protest?”
Like those embracing Poilievre, Booth said he believes Bitcoin represents a way to radically reform current political and economic systems by taking financial controls out of the hands of the government.
Foss and his four partners, including original convoy organizer B.J. Ditcher, say they have exclusive control over the donations to the protesters and have yet to decide how the money will be used.
A member of the HonkHonk group — known online as Nobody Cariboo, whose first name is Nick — joined Ditcher at a Canada Unity news conference in Ottawa on Wednesday and said he was the “liaison” between the protesters and a group of bitcoin experts.
He claimed Bitcoin would free people from the “shackles” of the “legacy finance system, and fundraising websites like GoFundMe, which present “critical vulnerability through censorship.”
He also said he is part of a team to teach protesters how to get just enough of the donated Bitcoins “to get them started and see the power of this technology.”
“We have a very clear financial objective for the Freedom convoy, and that is to receive global donations from individuals who want to support the convoy in their stand for freedom and we need to be able to do that without any obstruction.”
University of Ottawa computer science professor Guy-Vincent Jourdan, who studies cryptocurrency and security, said the value of Bitcoins is determined by market speculators causing them to shift rapidly.
Ultimately, he said, “There isn’t much to buy” with Bitcoins, and they have to be traded on Bitcoin stock exchanges for real dollars.
The Ontario Securities Commission in March 2021 approved the first Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETFs) in Canada, meaning Canadians could buy a fund that was linked to the value of Bitcoin on the Toronto Stock Exchange for the first time. It’s a big deal because the Security and Exchanges Commission in the United States has yet to approve any Bitcoin ETFs.
Poilievre praised the regulator’s decision in the Conservative virtual town hall in September, in which he also said that he owns “one of those ETFs.”
On Friday, Alberta Tory MP Michelle Rempel Garner introduced a cryptocurrency bill that would, if passed, require the finance minister to “formally ensure that cryptoasset experts are leading voices in policy development,” to attract investment and talent in the country.
Grant LaFleche is a St. Catharines-based investigative reporter with the Standard. Reach him via email: email@example.com
Alex McKeen is a Vancouver-based reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @alex_mckeen