Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Militaristic' new funny money is appropriate

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The third rollout of Canada's new funny money took place last week, and for the first time, one of our new polymer banknotes -- designed for durability and to thwart counterfeiters -- touched off a tad of a political controversy.

It wasn't because of the portrait of the Queen on the front of the new plastic-like $20 bills -- although she does exhibit a bit of a sour countenance -- but because some see the militaristic replacing the artistic on the bill's reverse side.

Indeed, there is much of an artistic nature on the old $20 bills, which were introduced in 2004 as part of the Canadian Journey series. If you reach into your pocket, you might see the back of those notes include two works by B.C. artist Bill Reid: his sculptures The Spirit of Haida Gwaii and The Raven and the First Man. And in a nod to Québécois culture, there's a quotation (if you squint really hard) from Gabrielle Roy's novel The Hidden Mountain.

In contrast, the back of the new $20s bears an image of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France, along with poppies and another small portrait of the Queen.

To our mind, all of these changes on the new 20 -- which begins circulating this November -- fit the bill.

It's fitting that the Queen remains on the front, given pride of place on Canada's most common banknote. After all, she is the Queen of Canada, and this is her diamond jubilee year. The portraits of Canadian prime ministers are plastered across the face of our remaining currency, including Robert Borden and Kitchener-born William Lyon Mackenzie King, on the old paper and new polymer $100 and $50 bills respectively.

The Vimy Memorial, dedicated to Canadians killed in the First World War, sits on land granted to Canada in perpetuity by the nation of France in honour of this country's sacrifice. It's apt that an image of this striking monument appears on our currency in this 95th anniversary year of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, and it will be even more appropriate when it's still there in 2017, the centennial of the battle that played a pivotal role in Canada's nationhood.

We wait with keen anticipation to see what designs will be attached to the last of our banknotes -- the $5 and $10 bills -- when they are converted to polymer by the end of 2013.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 9, 2012 A13

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