The Week – Every penny (still) counts

The end of the penny is growing near, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still a few charities out there who want your good cents

The Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind hopes the extinction of Canada’s penny won’t stop donations

Every penny (still) counts

The end of the penny is growing near, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still a few charities out there who want your good cents.

The Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind is once again asking for donations through its Collection Dog program, found at various locations around every city in Canada.

The Royal Canadian Mint stopped production of the penny in May 2012. Yet with the penny nearing its extinction on Feb. 4, when it will be eliminated from Canada’s coinage system and cash price totals will have to be rounded to the nearest five cents, the registered charity is fearful that this year’s collections will be deeply affected.

“The collection dogs are an example of how every penny adds up,” says Steven Doucette of Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind.  “For more than two decades, children have put their loose change into these dogs, and the majority of coins have been pennies. These pennies have been a huge source of revenue and have contributed greatly to our organization training guide dogs for visually impaired Canadians.”

It cost the government 1.6 cents to produce each new penny when production was stopped. While Doucette says rounding up or down may not make a huge difference to the average person, it will likely take some getting used to. Perhaps nickels and dimes will become unimportant to many now — that’s the hope of the organization, which has trained more than 700 guide dog teams from coast to coast since 1984. “Hopefully, instead of putting in five pennies, we’ll make it up a nickel at a time,” says Doucette. “We also hope to expand the program. One way we can try to make this up is to get more collection dogs into stores. The program is operated by volunteers in each community, so what we need even more than pennies is people.”

Doucette says the volunteer position can be undertaken in any community in the country. In the meantime, Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind would be happy to take your pennies. Drop them into a collection dog at a store close to you. For the nearest location or information about volunteering, call 604-270-2432 or email events@guidedogs.ca.

New year, old battle

Ladies, get on your gloves. A new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has found that women in B.C. earn significantly less than those in the rest of Canada.

The report, authored by Marjorie Griffin Cohen, an economist and SFU professor of political science and gender, sexuality and women’s studies, found that in 2010 (the latest available data), women in B.C. were earning $2,700 a year less than the national average.

The shift came as a surprise when Cohen discovered that, d­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­uring most of the 1990s, women in B.C. received average earnings that were generally equal to or higher than the national average. In the late 1990s, however, B.C. women’s earnings dropped, and have since lagged the Canadian average.

“The various attempts in B.C. to keep wages from rising appear to have had an impact on low-income earners over the past 10 years, and women disproportionately make up those low-wage workers,” says Cohen. “Public policy in B.C. has undermined the needs of workers in the mistaken belief that a low-wage policy will be best for the economy.”

From 2002 to 2010, British Columbian gals saw an average increase in their earnings of 0.49 per cent per year, compared to a Canadian average for women of 1.4 per cent per year. While earnings for women in B.C. now appear to be slowly improving, says Cohen, they are not keeping pace with the average for women workers in Canada. “During most of the period under consideration, one would have expected the B.C. earnings disadvantage to improve as the economy improved,” she says. “But this did not happen.”

One bird, two bird, red bird…

If you like birds and counting, this is the event for you. More than 12,000 volunteers across Canada — and over 60,000 continent-wide — will be counting birds until Sat., Jan. 5. Many, who have been on the task since Dec. 14, will rise before dawn and brave winter weather to participate in the world’s longest running wildlife census, which began in 1900.

“This is not just about counting birds,” says Dick Cannings, Bird Studies Canada’s program coordinator. “This data is at the heart of hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies and informs decisions by wildlife managers across Canada. Because birds are early indicators of environmental threats to habitats we share, this is a vital survey.”

Last year’s count shattered records in Canada: a total of 412 counts involving over 12,000 participants tallied 3.9 million birds of 303 species. To help finish off the count, visit birdscanada.org/volunteer/cbc and click on “Find a Count Near You.” M

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