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Service Canada is phasing out Social Insurance Number cards as part of the Conservative government's 2012 federal budget.

Ryan Remiorz

Ottawa is phasing out the SIN card in an effort to save money and help prevent identity theft.

The low-tech white plastic cards carrying the social insurance numbers of Canadians do not have any of the modern security features that are now common on drivers licences and credit cards.

News of the phase-out was revealed Tuesday morning at the Senate finance committee, where parliamentarians are hearing from dozens of government officials on the various clauses in the government's sweeping 425-page budget bill.

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"We would phase out the actual card," said Peter Boyd, Service Canada's director-general of service identity, authentication and epass.

He said the change will be phased in and is expected to save $1.5-million a year.

While credit card companies can quickly and easily give customers a new credit card number if a card has been stolen, a compromised SIN number can be a much bigger hassle. It is the number that government and employers use to track income, taxes and eligibility for various programs like Employment Insurance and the Canada Pension Plan.

In light of concerns over identity theft, Mr. Boyd said Canadians should be living without the cards now. "We do not recommend people carry that card with them," he told senators.

The government's omnibus budget bill, C-38, removes sections from several acts that mention a requirement to show a SIN card.

Officials from the Human Resources department also explained several changes in the bill dealing with privacy protection of SIN, EI and CPP files. The budget bill consolidates privacy rules into a single act, which the officials said includes more stringent privacy protection. The officials said they discussed the changes with the Privacy Commissioner and the commissioner did not raise concerns.

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