RADIA: Good riddance to the pesky penny
FACE TO FACE: Is the elimination of the penny a good idea for Canada?
The penny will soon go the way of platform shoes, rotary dial telephones and floppy disks.
Last week, the Harper government finally announced that it will discontinue the penny.
While the one-cent coin seems to have an odd sentimental hold on my colleague opposite, I am thrilled about this government’s common-sense decision.
I have never been a fan of the penny. In fact, I’m call anti-penny.
Whenever I make a cash purchase, I’m quick to say, “Keep the pennies.”
When a cashier slips a pile of coins into my hand, I quickly weed out the pennies and toss them in the “need a penny, take a penny” tray.
And I must admit, sometimes I throw my pennies into the garbage.
And despite all my efforts to live a penny-free existence, I still have thousands of coppers residing in overflowing jars at my home.
Imagine if every Canadian, on average, hoarded just 200 pennies a year. That’s more than $50 million taken out of the economy — each year.
Add that to the $11 million a year we’ll save in minting costs.
Various studies in both Canada and the United States have also derided the indirect cost of the coin to the national economy.
One study suggests the cost of waiting in line to get pennies for change costs Canadians $20 million to $25 million a year.
A U.S. study claims the average American wastes 2.4 hours a year handling pennies or waiting for people who handle them. This includes the ubiquitous 30 seconds we often spend waiting for the little old lady at the check-out to dig through her purse to find that last penny.
And what about the cost to businesses?
More than a dozen years ago, a Time article estimated that the U.S.-based pharmacy giant Walgreens lost $1.3 million each year merely counting pennies.
Thus, the decision to eliminate the Canadian penny is long overdue.
Australia and New Zealand got rid of their pennies about 15 years ago and it worked out very well for them. There was no significant increase in prices and, in fact, those nations are already engaged in discussions about removing the five-cent coin.
Au revoir, pesky penny. You will not be missed.
Andy Radia is a Coquitlam resident and political columnist who writes for Yahoo! Canada News and Vancouver View Magazine. He has been politically active in the Tri-Cities, having been involved with election campaigns at all three levels of government, including running for Coquitlam city council in 2005.