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Canadian penny's days are numbered; is the nuisance nickel next?

Cold, but happy: Thousands stripped down to brave the frigid waters of English Bay during the annual Polar Bear Dip in Vancouver, British Columbia, on New Year’s Day.

Associated Press

Cold, but happy: Thousands stripped down to brave the frigid waters of English Bay during the annual Polar Bear Dip in Vancouver, British Columbia, on New Year’s Day.

Now that the Royal Canadian Mint will start taking pennies out of circulation next month, the elimination of the nickel could be next.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said the penny has become a nuisance and was costing more to produce than it was worth.

Former Bank of Canada economist Jean-Pierre Aubry said the nickel is also becoming obsolete and should be next in line for retirement. Aubry said dumping the nickel should be part of a larger strategy to retool the Canadian currency.

This could include creating a new coin to replace the $5 bill; adding a 20 cent coin and eliminating the quarter; creating a $200 bill; and reducing all coin sizes significantly to ease the burden on pockets.

David Barnabe of Finance Canada said the government has no plans to eliminate the nickel.

New Zealand eliminated its 5 cent coin in 2006 after dumping its penny and 2 cent piece, and Australia's government has been considering ending production of its nickel.

Price of a passport going up in July

The Canadian government is raising the price of a passport valid for five years to $120 from $87 on July 1.

For the first time, Canadians can also apply for a 10-year passport at a cost of $160 or $260 for citizens living abroad.

The fee hike will offset rising fees and the cost of imbedding a microchip into each new passport booklet that will digitally store basic personal information to curb fraud and counterfeiting. About two-thirds of Canadians have a valid passport.

News in brief

• Ontario public teacher unions vow that it "won't be business as usual" now that the provincial government has imposed a two-year contract with a wage freeze and benefit cuts. Education Minister Laurel Broten had given the unions representing 126,000 teachers and education workers until Dec. 31 to settle their outstanding contracts. Teachers staged one-day strikes last month and are refusing to supervise extracurricular activities in protest.

• A former beauty queen has given notice through her lawyer that she will plead guilty Monday to taking part in Vancouver's 2011 Stanley Cup riot and breaking and entering. Sophie Laboissonniere, 21, of Richmond, who was named Miss Congeniality in a local beauty pageant, was arrested after the riot that caused about $4 million in damage and injured 140 people. Police have arrested 173 people and are considering charges against 142 others.

Facts and figures

Canada's jobless rate is at a four-year low of 7.1 percent, down from 7.2 percent, as the economy added 39,800 jobs in December, Statistics Canada said Friday.

The Canadian dollar has advanced to $1.0143 in U.S. funds, while the U.S. dollar returns 98.58 cents Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is steady at 1 percent, and the prime-lending rate is 3 percent.

Stock markets are higher, with the Toronto exchange index at 12,500 points and the TSX Venture index at 1,221 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Jan. 2) 10, 14, 15, 39, 43 and 49; bonus 9. (Dec. 29) 1, 26, 33, 36, 45 and 48; bonus 22. Lotto Max: (Dec. 28) 1, 9, 25, 28, 32, 41 and 48; bonus 12.

Regional briefs

• Metro Vancouver's new Port Mann Bridge between Surrey and Coquitlam has been closed twice in two weeks over weather-related problems. Freezing temperatures and fog turned the bridge icy during the morning commute Thursday, leading to crashes involving 40 cars and one injury. The bridge operator said the span was not properly de-iced. Last month, chunks of ice fell from support cables, damaging about 250 vehicles and injuring two people.

• A Nova Scotia man will have to serve 18 months in jail for sexual assault after poking holes in his girlfriend's condoms. Craig Hutchinson lost his appeal of the conviction after his trial was told that he wanted the woman to get pregnant and not break up with him. The Halifax-area woman did become pregnant and had an abortion.

• Thousands of hardy Canadians took part in a New Year's Day tradition — the Polar Bear Dip. This involved 800 participants stripping down or donning outlandish costumes before jumping into a frigid Lake Ontario at Oakville in 21-degree Fahrenheit weather. In Vancouver, thousands of swimmers gathered on the beach at English Bay in the same temperature. Crowds also gathered for a dip in Winnipeg and elsewhere to raise money for charities.

Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com.

Canadian penny's days are numbered; is the nuisance nickel next? 01/05/13 [Last modified: Saturday, January 5, 2013 6:58pm]
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