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Pennies begin a long disappearing act Monday

Betsy Burr, ticket centre supervisor at Island Savings Centre, holds a vanishing species of coin. Starting Monday, the federal government begins the phase-out of the penny. The Island Savings Centre will immediately start rounding its cash returns to the nearest nickel and all Canadian businesses are being urged to follow suit. - Andrew Leong
Betsy Burr, ticket centre supervisor at Island Savings Centre, holds a vanishing species of coin. Starting Monday, the federal government begins the phase-out of the penny. The Island Savings Centre will immediately start rounding its cash returns to the nearest nickel and all Canadian businesses are being urged to follow suit.
— image credit: Andrew Leong

Count on some confusion at Cowichan Valley businesses and elsewhere beginning Monday, as the penny begins its journey into becoming obsolete.

The Royal Canadian Mint will no longer be distributing pennies as of Feb. 4 and a notice from the federal government, for those who've been paying attention, is encouraging businesses to start rounding cash transactions on that date.

That means both rounding up and rounding down, with a bill of $1.01 or $1.02 getting pared back to $1 and $1.03 and $1.04 being raised to $1.05.

Only cash transactions are affected. The exact totals will remain the same for payments made by cheques or electronic transactions.

Sonja Nagel, executive director of the Duncan-Cowichan Chamber of Commerce, said it typically takes directives from the B.C. Chamber in cases such as this.

"I don't think it's ever been presented to the B.C. Chamber of Commerce,'' said Nagel. "I have seen absolutely nothing come out of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce.

"We've had our hands full with other issues and the penny has been very low on the list.''

The Municipality of North Cowichan will be going immediately to the rounding up and down system for cash transactions.

"It's been coming for quite a while,'' said director of finance Mark Frame. "We knew the deadline was Feb. 4.''

The recreation department made reference to the change in its latest newsletter.

"I don't think they get a lot of pennies there and we don't get a lot of cash period,'' said Frame.

Pennies can still be exchanged as normal if businesses decide to accept them and give them back as change.

"You can keep going as long as you want as long as you have pennies,'' explained Frame.

Many small business owners are simply going to implement the new system right away rather than prolong the penny's existence.

"That'll start as of Monday,'' said Susanne Merrett of the Sunflower Cafe in downtown Duncan, of the rounding up and down process.

"I think it'll just make it easier for people.''

"We don't use many pennies anyway,'' said a spokesperson at Cherries Ice Cream Parlour.

The decision to phase out the penny is expected to save taxpayers an estimated $11 million per year. The rising cost of production relative to the face value, the increased accumulation of pennies by Canadians in their households, environmental issues and the significant cost the penny imposes on retailers, financial institutions and the economy in general were all factors in the decision.

For any cash payment, only the final amount after the base price and taxes are taken into account will be subjected to rounding.

 

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