This fall, production of the Canadian penny will cease
to be, as was announced recently in the 2012 federal budget.
For Samantha Murray, a Grade 10 student at Holy Heart High School in St. John’s, such news is long overdue.
“It costs so much money to make (them). ... There’s no point to (the penny) at all.”
Murray wrote a letter to the editor last summer bemoaning the existence of the penny, pointing out that a person cannot buy anything with a single penny.
She suspects the only reason the penny has remained in circulation up until now is because people are afraid of change. “Get over it. Change is good,” she said.
St. John’s Board of Trade chairman Steve Power said the elimination of the penny is a non-issue for businesses, noting many already have an informal policy of rounding up change to avoid using pennies.
“We think it’s something that makes sense, and it’s savings for the taxpayer. It happened in other countries successfully, and we think it makes a lot of sense.”
According to the budget, the federal government will save $11 million annually by not producing the penny.
While it may leave people with less change jingling in their pockets, there are those who wouldn’t mind seeing it stick around.
“I’m hoping that people are going to give us their pennies while they still can,” said Sherry Humber, literacy projects manager for the Newfoundland and Labrador Laubach Literacy Council (NLLLC).
Each year, the charitable group holds its Roll Pennies for Pages campaign, encouraging people in the province to donate rolls of pennies to help NLLLC purchase materials and supplies for its one-on-one literacy tutoring programs.
While a penny might not seem like much, she said those collected by NLLLC help a great deal in paying for new materials.
Collecting pennies is not worth the effort for Easter Seals Newfoundland and Labrador. It used to collect them through schools in the province, but executive director Mark Lane said the campaign became too labour intensive to continue.
For Easter Seals, the cost for every dollar it raises should not rise above 35 per cent. In the case of the Penny Power campaign, Lane said Easter Seals was not meeting that target.
“The problem with the Penny Power campaign is it started to go south in terms of not having that right ratio and not getting a good return on the amount of human resource investment that went into it,” he said.
“Maybe we could do something with the nickel. Maybe that would be more profitable for a charity like ourselves.”
Humber is skeptical about the possibility of nickels becoming a new standard for loose change campaigns.
“My mom gets pennies, she takes them and puts them away for me for work. It’s just a penny, right? Most people would rather put them away than have to use them. They don’t want them in their pockets. … When it comes to a nickel each time, that’s a lot more money for some people.”
While its Penny Power campaign might be history, Lane said Easter Seals still collects one-cent coins from local fountains — on the day he spoke to The Telegram, he had earlier made a visit to a St. John’s hotel to do just that.
“To me, it sounds like the penny is worth more as a form of copper by itself.”
— With files from Chris Roberts