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A bill is paid in cash at an Ottawa restaurant. (Blair Gable/Blair Gable for The Globe and Mail)
A bill is paid in cash at an Ottawa restaurant. (Blair Gable/Blair Gable for The Globe and Mail)

Budget surprise

Open your wallets for plastic cash Add to ...

Jim Flaherty can't make your dollars go further but he is taking measures to ensure those $10- and $20-bills last far longer.

Canada's money is going plastic, the Harper government announced in its 2010 budget today. Starting in late 2011, Ottawa will replace Canada's paper-cotton bank notes - prone to wear and tear - with synthetic ones that last two to three times longer.

The changes are intended save on the cost of printing bills - and create a currency that's much harder to counterfeit.

Ottawa will rely on a sole supplier - an Australian company - for the polymer bank-note material. In theory, at least, the scarcity of this means fraudsters will be hard-pressed to fake their own notes.

The plastic-feeling bills will also allow the Bank of Canada to design funkier notes - with clear windows in them, for instance - as well as extra, embedded security measures.

Canadians will no longer have to worry that their tens and twenties might dissolve if they mistakenly go through the wash. And the bills themselves are far more indestructible, unless, of course, they are melted by a flame.

Ottawa also announced it will proceed to make cheaper Canadian coins as well, replacing the predominately-nickel based $2- and $1-coins with steel instead. (The mint has already done this for nickels, dimes and quarters.)

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