Most Canadians favour scrapping penny: poll

January 2nd, 2011 - 8:00am


OTTAWA -- A majority of Canadians agree it's time to kill the penny, a new Angus Reid poll has found.

According to the survey, 55% of Canadians support dropping the one-cent coin, while 35% want to keep it, and 18% of Canadians responded they'd even be "happy" when it's gone.

Support for the penny, which has lost 95% of its purchasing power since it was introduced in 1908, is highest in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and the Maritimes, whereas British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario are most in favour of scrapping it.

Mario Canseco with Angus Reid said they were most surprised with the gender split, which shows 65% of men want to eliminate the penny and only 45% of women are on board.

Also, younger Canadians between the ages of 18 and 34 are evenly split on the penny's fate, whereas the older groups are increasingly in favour of scrapping it (35-45-year-olds, 59%, 55 , 64%).

"We thought it was going to be the opposite. We thought older Canadians would be more nostalgic, and they'll have all those stories about what they used to be able to buy with a penny," Canseco said. "In fact, it's actually younger Canadians who are divided on the issue. Everybody else is on side."

Winnipeg New Democrat Pat Martin, a long-time foe of the copper-plated coin, said the recent polling numbers should be enough for Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to make his move to scrap the penny.

"When common sense meets public approval, then your course is clear as a Minister," Martin said Wednesday from New Zealand, which has already dropped its two lowest coins leaving the 10-cent piece as the smallest denomination. "There's no longer any reason whatsoever to stall and delay to eliminate the penny. Flaherty should be phoning the mint today and putting a stop work order on the next billion pennies they planned on cranking out."

It costs 1.5 cents to put one penny into circulation, and even though there are 30 billion currently in circulation, the mint has to produce 500 million new ones every year because they're hoarded.

The Senate recommended earlier this month scrapping the penny.

And while Flaherty had said this past spring the situation couldn't go on forever, a spokesman for his office said Wednesday said Canadians shouldn't hold their breath for change.

"We are reviewing the (Senate) report but there are no plans to eliminate the penny," wrote Chisholm Pothier, Flaherty's director of communications, in an e-mail.