TORONTO – Canada started phasing out its penny, the nuisance coins that clutter dressers and cost more than their 1-cent value to produce.
The Royal Canadian Mint on Monday officially ended its distribution of pennies to financial institutions. Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced last year they were a nuisance and have outlived their purpose.
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.
There’s nothing a penny will buy any more, not a gum ball or small piece of candy, Martin said. Note the penny is a nuisance. It costs too much to make. They clutter our change purse and they don’t circulate. They build up in piles in old cookie jars under our beds and in our desk drawers. You can’t give them away. They cost more than what they’re worth.