OTTAWA — A conspiracy theory found its way into a federal finance committee meeting Thursday after a Liberal MP asked Canada’s top central banker if there’s any merit to the “great reset.”
London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos asked about an idea that “the elite” in politics and the financial sector are conspiring on an international level to use the pandemic to “remake the world in some sort of socialist image.”
“I can’t believe I’m asking this question at a parliamentary committee, but trust is the essential glue of democracy,” Fragiskatos said. “Is there any merit to this idea?”
The question made Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem chuckle.
“As a rule, central bankers don’t usually comment on conspiracy theories,” he said.
Watch: Bank of Canada governor chuckles when asked about ‘great reset’ conspiracy theory. Story continues below video.
Macklem said he agreed trust “is an essential ingredient,” even for the central bank.
“Our job is to ensure that people have confidence in the value of money. They can have confidence in the stability of the economy,” he said. “They can have confidence in the stability of the financial system — and our system really relies on that trust or confidence.”
Macklem, who was appointed governor in May, appeared before the finance committee to answer questions about the central bank’s latest monetary policy report which forecasted a “slow and choppy” economic rebound ahead.
In his opening remarks, he set expectations by stating Canada will get through the pandemic but the journey will be a “tough slog.”
The term the “great reset” goes back years but it gained a new meaning during the COVID-19 pandemic after being co-opted by conspiracy theorists. It has become a shorthand used to attack mainstream political and economic policies addressing climate change and social inequities.
The term’s evolution as a conspiracy theory gained traction after Prince Charles and the World Economic Forum (WEF) called on world leaders to join a September meeting named “The Great Reset.” It sought to “improve the state of the world” by “simultaneously managing the direct consequences of the COVID-19 crisis.”
Conspiracy theorists point to edited video supercuts of world leaders saying the words “great reset” and “build back better” as cursory evidence of “elites” conspiring to use the pandemic as a vehicle to push progressive political and economic agendas.
The conspiracy theory has found an audience among contrians, some who are also drawn to QAnon and anti-mask movements. These views have been recognized in the mainstream by some Conservative politicians, including finance committee member Pierre Poilievre.
Poilievre spoke about the conspiracy theory in a finance committee meeting last week, warning that the “global financial elites have called for the same ‘great reset,’ which would re-engineer economies and societies to empower the elites at the expense of the people.”
The Conservative finance critic urged Canadians to “fight back against global elites preying on the fears and desperation of people to impose their power grab.”
Fragiskatos alluded to Poilievre’s comments and culpability in fanning the flames of a conspiracy theory.
“I see no nefarious plot behind any set of policies that seek to deal with climate change, that seek to reduce inequalities, and that aim to deal with other challenges of our time.”
The Liberal MP moved on to questions about Canada’s debt as a result of a suite of emergency financial supports, relief programs stretching nine months, to buoy the economy.
The parliamentary budget officer projected in September that the federal deficit for the year is expected to hit $328.5 billion.
At committee, Macklem said markets funding the debt are currently “fine,” adding that Canada has the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio among G7 countries.
He said the programs supporting the economy have been “very helpful in underpinning and preventing a much worse outcome and they’re going to be very important supporting the recovery.”
At the end of Thursday’s meeting, Poilievre raised a point of order to thank the central bank’s senior deputy governor, Carolyn Wilkins, who also appeared as a witness, for her years of service at the bank.
Wilkins is leaving her post Dec. 9 after announcing her decision to step out of her role early, months before her seven-year term expires in May. She had been perceived as a frontrunner for the bank’s top job before former finance minister Bill Morneau appointed Macklem.
Trudeau also addressed ‘great reset’ theory
Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked by a reporter to comment on the “great reset” conspiracy gaining traction with the aid of elected members of Parliament.
Frustration over the pandemic and its impact on people’s lives may prime some to be more drawn to conspiracy theories than others, he said. “I think we’re seeing a lot of people fall prey to disinformation.” Trudeau said its Conservative MPs’ choice to focus on those theories.
“I’m going to stay focused on helping Canadians get through this, on learning lessons from this pandemic and on making sure that the world we leave to our kids is even better than the world we inherited from our parents.”
The Liberals recently tabled legislation to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. If passed, Bill C-15 would require the government set five-year targets to cut carbon emissions starting in 2030.
It’s unclear what those targets are because the legislation doesn’t quantify those goals. Despite setting goals to reduce emissions over the last three decades, Canada never met its own targets.