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December 15, 2021

If it goes, would anyone miss the penny?

Across the nation, inside every retirement home in Canada, speculation that the penny may soon be removed from circulation must be causing a stir.514164_penny_1

After all, if there are no more pennies, what are old people to jingle in their pocket –only nickels, dimes, quarters, loonies and toonies? Unacceptable. Shoppers-Drug-Mart-running-out-of-Werther’s-Original unacceptable.

Yet, in spite of their favour with the elderly, the penny sure seems to be short on use these days. Which begs the question: would anyone actually miss it?

Joking aside, the penny isn’t just  for seniors to hang onto – even if giving commemorative coin sets is a decidedly old-person holiday gift – but its cost to Canada, mixed with an increased societal preference to pay with plastic, may soon make the coin a thing of the past.

As you’ve no doubt heard, a Senate committee has officially recommended a cease and desist to the Canadian penny: “The fact is that the penny is not of much use any more,” Richard Neufeld, vice chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said, noting the coin has lost 95 per cent of its purchasing power since 1908, its first year in circulation.

“Most of us know the penny as little more than a nuisance that slows down the line at a grocery store, and ends up under couches or in drawers,” he added.

Harsh words, sure, but any supporters of the penny in 2010 – wait, are there supporters of the penny in 2010? – would have a tough time arguing the coin is worth keeping around.

According to a 2005 estimate, scrapping the penny would save more than $131 million, cash that could certainly be used elsewhere.

Surely, there are successful global precedents for ditching the use of low-denomination coins. Sweden, Norway and Denmark have eliminated most of its coins since the ‘70s. So, too, have New Zealand, Australia and Brazil. Here’s proof.

In Canada, then, all that appears necessary is the government work with retailers to ease the transition to a penniless nation. As the Senate report suggests, stores and restaurants would have to round their prices to the nearest five cents to make cash transactions possible. Debit and credit cards would take care of the rest.

If the Senate has its way and the penny is finally discontinued, would you miss it?

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...