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Two fives will get you 10, but do they melt?

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The Bank of Canada revealed the final two bills of our new "polymer notes" — or plastic money, to use the plain language they taught us about in journalism school.

The $5 and $10 bills won't be released to the public for spending until November but the designs were unveiled this morning by Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney.

The $100, $50 and $20 bills have already been in circulation for awhile. 

The new $5 bill has an endorsement all the way from outer space. Chris Hadfield, the Canadian astronaut now commanding the International Space Station, called in to the press conference, with one of the new $5 bills.

The connection is because the $5 bill features pictures of Canada's contribution to international space technology, namely the Canadarm2 and Dextre, both robotics which help build and maintain the space station.

Sir Wilfred Laurier is still the prime minister on the other side of the bill.

The new $10 note features a train travelling through the Rockies, to represent linking Canada's east and west by rail. Sir John A MacDonald is on the other side, in keeping with the old $10 bills.

Polymer notes have been used in many other countries for years. Including Australia which was the first to kick the paper money habit in 1996. New Zealand, Romania, Brunei and Vietnam are among the other nations which use polymer notes, which are more expensive to produce (19 cents each) but harder to counterfeit and are supposed to last up to 20 years.

More information on the new notes is available at the Bank of Canada website.

But last summer, there was a series of stories of people claiming the new bills were melting. Some complained they were sticking together when left in a hot car, others said they melted when placed on the stove or in a tin can near a baseboard heater.

The Bank of Canada says the notes were heavily tested, and can withstand temperatures up to 140 degrees Celsius. The suggestion the bills melt has been dismissed by many as an urban myth.

The bills aren't indestructable. Even coins will melt if subjected to enough heat, although temperatures would have to be a lot more than that produced by a space heater. It's not really a big problem if bills melt when you place them on a hot stove. Generally one shouldn't have reason to leave one's money on the oven.

This summer will maybe truly prove the point though. The $20 bills were released in November and since most Canadians don't walk around with scores of $50s or $100s in their wallets, the most commonly used note has yet to weather a Canadian summer and all the heat and humidity it can offer in certain places.

That's not to suggest you try leaving your bills in aluminum foil in the direct sunshine to see what happens. But if you accidentally forget your wallet in a hot car this July, let us know if you end up with a pool of melted plastic when you get back.

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About Mia Rabson

Mia Rabson is a born and bred Winnipegger whose interest in politics seemed clear when she dressed up as Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for Halloween in the 7th grade.

Her interest in writing was no surprise to her parents, who learned early in Mia’s life that no piece of blank paper — or wall, for that matter — was safe in her hands.

She holds an honours BA in English from Queen’s University, a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario, and has completed a political journalism fellowship in Washington, D.C. with the Washington Centre for Politics and Journalism.

Prior to working for the Winnipeg Free Press, Mia briefly worked for the Detroit News in the paper’s Washington bureau.

Mia joined the Free Press team in February 2001, and in April 2001 was appointed to the Manitoba legislature bureau. In December 2004, she was appointed bureau chief at the legislature. She became the newspaper’s parliamentary bureau chief/national reporter in Ottawa in January 2008.

In 2008 she was nominated for a Michener Award with a team of reporters from the Free Press for its coverage of the province’s child welfare system.

She counts reliving the invasion at Dieppe, France, with veterans of the failed Second World War expedition and overcoming her fear of heights to touch the Golden Boy statue atop the Legislative Building among her favourite experiences as a reporter.


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