In a surprise move, the federal government announced this morning that Canada will bring back the penny.
Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said the Royal Canadian Mint will immediately restart production of the one-cent coin, which was discontinued earlier this year.
When it hits the market later this month, Canadians can expect a slightly different penny than the one they remember. Citing an obscure clause within the Central Bank of Canada’s monetary policy, Flaherty told reporters that the new penny would have to be materially different in appearance from the discontinued model. “The penny will have a new look,” he said, and then announced that the Mint will be replacing the Queen’s image with one of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“We wanted someone who was more relatable than Her Majesty,” said Flaherty. “Stephen has a similar warmth, and hairstyle. Plus, Justin Beiber’s agent wanted too much money.”
Ryan Gosling’s likeness was also considered, but rejected due to fears that women would hoard the coins.
Flaherty admitted that the move will hurt the federal treasury, since pennies cost more to produce than they are worth. But calls from across the country to reinstate the coin persuaded the government to bring it back. “Canadians love things that aren’t practical or useful, like pennies, the metric system and bilingualism. It’s just part of who we are.”
International reaction to the news has been mixed. U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Jacobson welcomed the announcement, saying “Kinda feels good to stick it to the monarchy, if only in a small, polite, Canadian way, doesn’t it?” Meanwhile Cyprian Finance Minister Michael Sarris was not as free with his praise, commenting “Oh sure, now the Canadians try to help us out of our jam by deflecting attention from our crisis with this ridiculous announcement. But it’s too little, too late. Thanks for nothing. Seriously.” He then asked if he could borrow a few pennies, as he was having difficulty accessing his own bank accounts online.
Recent surveys about Canadian currency showed that about a third of consumers wanted to keep the penny. A quarter of respondents wanted new bills that didn’t feel like plastic Monopoly money. Further probing of consumers’ reaction to the new bills revealed some Canadians feel strongly about their relationship to their cash. “Those new twenties are terrible,” said one survey-taker, “You fold them in half, then a few seconds later, they unfold themselves. How can you trust a currency that has a mind of its own?”
The Royal Canadian Numismatic Association, a non-profit organization representing cool and hip coin collectors, was elated by the government’s change of heart. “When it comes to pennies, this is the biggest thing since Penny and Raj nearly hooked up on The Big Bang Theory,” a spokesperson enthused.
Canada Revenue Agency is another fan of the move. “We look forward to squeezing every cent out of taxpayers again. Except for the rich, of course,” a spokesperson said.
And Canadians for Strong Families said parents are relieved that their children will be able to learn to count by more than fives. “Our members spend a lot of time teaching their kids,” the association said on its website. “Well, with our little girls anyway. The boys? Not so much.”
Retailers, though, aren’t happy with today’s announcement.
“Getting rid of the penny saved customers hours of time at the checkout stand,” said a news release from the Retail Merchants Association of Canada. “Now they’re going to have to wait in line while our teenaged clerks try to figure out how to make change from a $4.98 purchase.”
Corporations blasted Ottawa for making the move without any consultation. “It’s getting harder to discriminate against our female staff,” complained a spokesman for the Association of Big Business. “How the hell do we pay our female employees 19 percent less of a penny than our men?”
Liberal Party members, who had received leaked information regarding the penny mere hours before the announcement, reached out to outgoing Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney to see if there were any loopholes within BoC regulations that could be used to side-step the surprise move. One Liberal back-bencher who wanted to remain anonymous claims Carney was less than helpful, and said “Look, I didn’t make the rules. It’s your problem now,” and then went back to the difficult task of finding suitable housing in London.
Sources at the Mint, who did not wish to be identified, said the decision was made to avoid potentially embarrassing publicity. The government’s campaign to get Canadians used to life without the coin encouraged the adoption of “Swedish rounding,” a system that would see prices rounded up or down to the nearest five cents. The phrase is, however, also slang for a crude sexual act involving hand puppets.
Sources within the finance ministry said the Tories had rejected alternate strategies for the campaign, including promoting “government rounding,” a system most recently used to forecast a balanced budget by 2015.