The lineup for a cup of steaming hot coffee was long on a recent chilly morning at the downtown McDonald’s restaurant.
Two teenaged girls stood at the counter, busily talking and texting on their expensive smartphones while waiting for their lattes. One of them dropped a dime on the floor and quickly kicked it aside, apparently the prospect of recovering her 10-cent piece not compelling enough to bother bending over and picking up the coin.
There was a time when a dime was well worth the effort. Heck, even a nickel was enough to reach out and retrieve from the street. Pennies? Well, once dropped, they’ve been left on sidewalks and restaurant floors for years now, kind of like the flotsam and jetsam of pockets overloaded with change.
The federal government knows this, of course, and announced last year that the penny was doomed. As of Feb. 4, the Royal Canadian Mint starts collecting the coppers and melting them down — casualties of inflation and the increasing cost of production (it costs 1.6 cents each to manufacture them).
Now there are calls to get rid of the nickel, too.
According to former Bank of Canada economist Jean-Pierre Aubry, the five-cent piece has reached what he calls a “tipping point,” where Canadians are hoarding rather than spending the coin — “a sign that the coin is not well-used.”
Before you get your nickels in a knot, it’s worth pointing out that a federal finance official says the government has no immediate plans to withdraw the coin.
And that’s a good thing, since it remains to be seen what is going to happen to retail prices once the penny is gone forever.
There are those who fear eliminating the copper and the resulting rounding up of prices could trigger a wave of inflation, although some experts argue that hasn’t been the case in other nations that have put a cap on coinage.
But there’s always that lingering doubt, isn’t there? When was the last time prices actually came down as a result of government policy? Chances are, retailers will be temped to tack on a few extra cents and consumers will have to bite the bullet — yet again.
Get rid of the nickel? It’s too early for that. Let’s see what impact the demise of the penny has before we bash the beaver.
For now, anyway, they’re still worth picking up.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.