TORONTO – Canada has started phasing out its penny, the nuisance coins that clutter dressers and cost more than their one-cent value to produce.
The Royal Canadian Mint on Monday officially ended its distribution of pennies to financial institutions.
While people may still use pennies, the government has issued guidelines urging store owners to start rounding prices to the nearest nickel for cash transactions. Electronic purchases will still be billed to the nearest cent.
The government has said the cost of the penny exceeds its monetary value. Production is $11 million a year. The coins, which feature two maple leaves and Queen Elizabeth II in profile, will remain legal tender until they eventually disappear from circulation.
Opposition New Democrat Member of Parliament Pat Martin gave a poetic goodbye to the penny in Parliament on Monday. Martin said, “There’s nothing a penny will buy any more, not a gum ball or small piece of candy. They cost more than what they’re worth. It’s time to put them all out to pasture, put them out to the curb. No, the penny is useless, but there is one thing I’d say, I hope they don’t start treating old MPs this way.”
New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Sweden and others have also dropped the penny.
The U.S. Treasury Department has said the Obama administration has looked at possibly using cheaper materials to make the penny, which is now made of zinc.
Two bills calling for the end of the U.S. penny, introduced in 2002 and 2006 by Republican Rep. Jim Kolbe, failed to advance in the House of Representatives.
The U.S. zinc lobby has been a major opponent to suggestions that the penny be eliminated.