Cash is still king

Though electronic transactions rule the modern marketplace, a recent survey from the Bank of Canada reveals four-in-five Canadians want to retain hard currency as a means of payment. Photo credit: Shutterstock/Stefan Malloch


In our modern technological world of debit cards, electronic financial transactions, and other means of moving money around the globe in split seconds, the notion of getting rid of physical currency and adopting a digital version has become increasingly popular.

The Bank of Canada recently sent out a survey asking Canadians about their views on Canada establishing a digital currency. I completed the survey out of curiosity and to express my views and found the survey to be very biased in favour of moving to a digital currency. There was often no way to express the opinion that cash should not be replaced entirely because of the way the survey was set up. Nevertheless, the Bank of Canada does state that they have no intention of completely replacing bank notes “as long as Canadians want to use them.” 

Although there is no doubt a digital currency would be convenient and positive in many ways, there are also a lot of reasons that Canadians should continue to want to have cash available as a means of payment. 

One key reason is that vulnerable communities, including such groups as low-income Canadians, domestic abuse survivors, and people without an established home need cash. These groups will typically not have a bank account or debit and credit cards. Cash is essential for them to conduct their daily affairs. 

In the case of domestic abuse victims, they want to avoid the tracking capabilities that digital payment provides to abusers. As well, abusers often use financial means of exerting control over the abused, which is made much easier to control by using digital transactions. Cash can be a means of empowerment and freedom that enables the victim to exert control over their own circumstances and get out of an abusive situation. 

The desire to keep one’s financial business to oneself is not limited to people in abusive circumstances, of course. These days we hear about such things as a social credit system in China, where everything is tracked, and the government knows exactly how you’re spending your money. This is a frightening scenario for most people, and it should be. We have already seen how large tech companies like Meta, Google and others use our data derived from social media use to direct advertising our way. Such information is also frequently hacked, including from government sources such as the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). 

The notion that all our financial affairs would be available to government or others is a worrisome possibility that we have already seen in other parts of the world with all the expected downsides, and Canadians should oppose it strenuously. 

When discussing the possible future digital currency, the Bank of Canada ensures it will be completely secure and private. Of course, that’s what we were told about CRA data too, as well as what we share with Facebook, Instagram, and other social media, and we all know how that worked out.  

It is estimated that cash transactions will represent only about three per cent of all transactions by 2025. Although some foresee a cashless future, it is encouraging that the Bank of Canada’s survey found that about 80 per cent of Canadians had every intention of retaining cash as a payment option. Good decision – maybe more people have read George Orwell’s 1984 than we thought. 

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