Pat Martin, the NDP MP from Winnipeg Centre, probably wasn’t a household name until last week. But that changed Thursday when he introduced legislation to do away with the Canadian penny.
The private member’s bill he introduced has produced discussion across Canada.
His reasoning is that it is costing Canadians too much. Apparently it costs the federal government $130 million a year to keep it in circulation.
Somehow, as Canadians, we manage to lose 1.2 billion of those copper-coloured coins every year. That is a saving to the taxpayers and $130 million could be used elsewhere.
In addition, businesses have not calculated the cost of the penny. It probably matches or exceeds that of the government.
Today they are made of steel with a copper coating. Today’s pennies cost 5.95 cents each to produce. Up until 1999, they were still 100 percent copper and one of those old copper pennies actually has four cents of copper in it.
It’s against the law to melt them down and send them off to a scrap metal dealer, or even show up with a bag of pennies for the scrap metal dealer to recycle.
I was surprised in Australia that I didn’t have any pennies and none of the receipts at the cash register came out in anything but zeros or fives. Everything was rounded up or down.
Most small businesses in that country actually rounded down most purchases for good will.
Listening to CBC’s “Cross Country Check-up” on Sunday, I enjoyed the debate about the penny. Consumers and business people alike seemed relieved that the penny might come to an end.
Consumers were happy that they wouldn’t have to search through wallets for those pennies. Many businesses can’t even be bothered to accept them, which has given rise to those containers at cash registers that offer people the chance to use or replace pennies from change.
Many younger people can’t even be bothered to take change under a quarter, feeling the money is worthless since it is hard to buy something with a penny, nickel, or dime.
The dissenters were teachers who wondered how they would teach children about the “loonie” that has 100 cents, but a cent would have no physical description.
One listener admitted it was cheaper to make a washer out of a penny than to go to Canadian Tire and buy one.
If the penny were to disappear, consumers wouldn’t have to find a way of disposing of them any more. And later the nickel also would disappear as it has in New Zealand.
On our kitchen counter, there is a jar that reads “Brownie Points.” At the end of the day, I put my pennies and nickels into it. I am not alone in separating small coins from large coins.
Today, pockets and wallets are emptied of pennies at the end of day. Over time, pennies fill jars, cups, boxes, and banks. They get stored in drawers, shelves, under beds, and in garages. They stop being circulated.
Pennies are a nuisance to roll, and no business has to accept more than 25 toward a payment.
As has been done in other countries, Canada would claim back the pennies. Perhaps with 20 billion pennies in circulation, Canadians could clean their homes and donate that $200 million to charity.
That would have value—something we don’t think our current penny has.
Publisher’s Pen logo