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Where do coins tossed into the Centennial Flame go?


An average of about $15 worth of coins splash every day into the water
An average of about $15 worth of coins splash every day into the water

The Canadian Press

December 2, 2012 — Wish-makers toss thousand of dollars worth of change into Parliament Hill's Centennial Flame each year. A Public Works spokesman explains where the coins from the bubbling fountain end up.

More coins are tossed into the flame during the summer months
More coins are tossed into the flame during the summer months

The bubbling fountain outside of Parliament Hill has stood as an informal gathering place for almost half a century.

Toonies, loonies, quarters, dimes and nickels - along with doomed pennies - are regularly pitched through the dancing flames into a brass bucket submerged in the middle of the fountain.

And just as regularly, officially designated coin-scoopers show up to harvest the rain of change, armed with brushes, shovels and buckets.

On a wind-whipped, bitterly cold, November day, Public Works employees Robert Labonte and Martin Lafreniere-Parent gingerly lift the brass bucket out of the fountain, to the delight of a squealing grade-school group. 

The bucket is carefully emptied into another container, and the pair then sweep and shovel any other rogue coins from the perimeter of the landmark fountain, built for the 1967 Centennial.

Fall and winter are much slower, but coin-collectors are out every week during the colder months (courtesy: Sonja Lishchynski)
Fall and winter are much slower, but coin-collectors are out every week during the colder months (courtesy: Sonja Lishchynski)

The stash of cash is then hauled into the basement of the Centre Block, where it's churned like butter inside a kind of bingo tumbler for cleaning and sorting.

The tourist-tossed coins really fly in the summer, when Labonte and Lafreniere-Parent have to stoop and scoop the change almost every day.

Fall and winter are much slower, but they're still out there collecting every week or so.

Most of the money - about $5,750 this year - is awarded to a disabled Canadian who has contributed to the public or parliament in some way.

The House of Commons keeps a balance of about $17,000 in its Centennial Flame Research Award Fund. Recpients of the fund are picked each fall by a Commons committee.

An average of about $15 worth of coins splash every day into the water, which has roiled with flaming natural gas from Alberta for 45 years.

That's 44 years longer than initially planned when then-prime minister Lester Pearson lit the flame on Jan. 1, 1967, for what was supposed to be a one-year run.

But people loved the fountain and flame, and it has remained to warm hearts and chilled hands for decades. The flame keeps the fountain water warm enough that it never freezes, even in the chilliest of weather conditions.

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