Re-geekin’ the 902: Canada is penniless

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Last time around I wrote about the Canadian loonies and toonies, and how much sense they make. On this visit I learned that Canada made another sensible currency decision: it’s eliminated the penny.

Last year the Canadian government decided to get rid of the penny, and the Canadian mint produced the last ones. This past February the last shipment of pennies was sent into circulation. As with the phase-out of paper $1s and $2s, the mint will collect pennies as they arrive and remove them from circulation.

As with the loonies and toonies, this makes a great deal of sense. The government determined that two-thirds of Canadians don’t ever use pennies, and that each penny costs 1.6¢ to make. Eliminating the penny will save Canadian taxpayers around $11 million dollars a year. Note too that the elimination of pennies only applies to cash transactions: payments made by check, credit cards, debit cards, or other means of exchange will not be affected in any way. It’s only when actual physical money changes hands, or more specifically when you receive your change.

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Guidelines were provided, both by the Canadian mint and by individual merchants. McDonalds restaurants posted placards at its cash registers explaining the rounding-off methods used, although I think these were primarily in areas where foreign visitors were likely to encounter them.

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Most Canadians I asked about it didn’t think it was a problem at all. I found some on-line comments of the tinfoil-hat variety that portrayed it as Big Government’s way of squeezing additional pennies out of our pockets, which is curious because half the time the merchant is actually shorting himself a couple of cents knowing he will make it up in the other half. The Minister of Finance even described pennies as a national “burden.” I don’t think Canadian society has come to tottering ruin over this.. yet.

A cashier at a Sobey’s supermarket told me she had heard that the penny will be reintroduced because the Canadian government has found a company in India that will make them cheaper. She lives there and I don’t, but I don’t see that happening. Partially because the phase-out is already well under way, and partially because Canadians probably wouldn’t support outsourcing this national icon overseas. The Lapine, a Canadian satire site similar to The Onion, published a piece about it in late September which is where she may have heard it.

A relatively easy, not-too-complicated way to save the taxpayer more than $10 mil a year. I think it’s a no-brainer, something the US government should emulate (much like the loonies and toonies).

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