Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

More plastic cash to foil fakers

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THE unveiling of Canada's newest banknote could put "We don't accept $50 or $100 bills" signs on the endangered-species list.

The new $50 bill, made out of a form of plastic called "polymer" and featuring a laundry list of anti-counterfeiting measures, was unveiled across the country Monday. The Winnipeg event was held at the University of Manitoba.

"We're hoping polymer bills will make for an added level of confidence and security so that cash-handlers will have less of a fear of being victimized by counterfeiters," said Ted Mieszkalski, senior regional representative (currency) for the Bank of Canada.

The $50 bill is Canada's second note to be made of polymer -- the $100 bill was unveiled last November -- and paves the way for the $20 bill to follow this year and the $10 and $5 notes in 2013. The $50 will be the first, however, to be dispensed by ATMs around Canada, beginning Monday.

The $50 bill has two transparent areas -- one in the shape of a Maple Leaf -- complex holographic features and a portrait of former prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King.

Leo Ledohowski, president of the Canad Inns hotel chain and a director of the Bank of Canada, said having state-of-the-art security on legal tender will increase confidence in Canadian currency and reduce financial losses and administrative headaches for businesses.

"The reports of the death of cash are greatly exaggerated," he said. "Consumers use cash for more than half of all transactions."

As security has been stepped up in recent years, it has become less and less common for bands of counterfeiters to blow into town, spend up a storm with fake bills and blow out, Ledohowski said. The new banknotes should reduce this type of activity to "near zero," he said.

Canada is far from a trailblazer in issuing hard-to-fake banknotes. Australia was the first to introduce polymer bills in 1996 and about 30 other countries have followed suit.

Mieszkalski said RCMP figures show counterfeiting has become far less pervasive in Canada in recent years. Officers seized less than $3 million in fake bills across the country last year, down nearly 80 per cent from $14 million in 2004.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

The local connection

THE new $50 note features an image of the CCGS Amundsen, a research icebreaker used by the University of Manitoba's Arctic researchers since 2003. It is jointly operated by ArcticNet and the Canadian Coast Guard.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 27, 2012 A6

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