The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Pride in space robots prompts Canadian firm to dole out new $5 bills as freebies

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OTTAWA - Tins of breath mints. Coffee mugs. Even a shovel.

Journalists in Canadian newsrooms are accustomed to receiving all manner of goodies from organizations trying to charm them into writing about their goods, services or achievements.

But the shiny new $5 bills that arrived in some Ottawa newsrooms this week were an unusual addition to the swag stockpile.

MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates — the global communications and information company known as MDA — sent out the polymer bills to a select number of media contacts in the city because the new notes are adorned by sketches of the Canadarm2 and Dextre.

MDA developed the robotics for the Canadian Space Agency, and they've been central to the success of the International Space Station.

Canadarm2 played an essential role in the construction of the space station, as well as tethering astronauts on space walks. Dextre is a two-armed robot capable of performing tasks currently handled by astronauts on space walks.

"As a leading participant in Canada's space program, MDA wanted you to be one of the first recipients of the new Bank of Canada $5 bank note," reads the literature accompanying the blue bills.

The fresh new fivers would be good for a sandwich or a coffee in the nation's capital — that is if journalists were willing to shake off any qualms about accepting cash for coverage. Most media organizations, including The Canadian Press, auction off freebies every holiday season and donate the money to charity.

The release of the new notes "gave us a unique opportunity to highlight Canada's tremendous accomplishments in space and to express our pride in the role we as a company played in this endeavour," an MDA spokesperson said in an email.

"We feel it was a very cost-effective way to promote these achievements."

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