Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'll try to keep to our time.
I would like to start by thanking the chair and the honourable members of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage for inviting the Royal Canadian Mint to present the commemorative coin programs and the implications of these activities on Canada's 150th anniversary in 2017.
I believe the work that the mint has done to celebrate Canada's greatest moments and icons, while meeting its primary obligation to produce and distribute circulation coinage to support Canadian commerce, speaks volumes about our commitment in supporting our national celebrations and milestones.
In addition to serving a transactional purpose, coins are also a medium for projecting a nation's pride to its citizens and to the outside world. The mint is proud to have followed this tradition by capturing the many different aspects of Canada: its people, places, and passions. We are even more proud to be doing so while generating robust profits and returning healthy dividends to our sole shareholder, the Government of Canada.
Before I get into the business of commemoration at the mint, I would like to offer a very brief overview of our diversified business. Operating as a self-financing crown corporation since 1969, the Mint is primarily responsible for producing and distributing Canada's circulation coins. But in addition to housing our Canadian circulation business line, our state-of-the-art facility in Winnipeg, Manitoba, produces circulation coins for foreign countries. Over the past 30 years, we have produced coins for over 70 countries, from New Zealand to Panama to the United Arab Emirates, thanks to our reputation for innovation, high-quality standards, and delivery. Our customers rely on us because the quality and technology that goes into all of our coins assures them that their national symbols will endure and resonate with their citizens for years to come.
Our bullion and refinery business has been a dominant part of our Ottawa operations lately, as worldwide demand for gold and silver continues to rise in tandem with uncertainty over the future of the global economy. Our bullion coins are sold and sought worldwide under the universally recognized Maple Leaf bullion brand. We have consistently led our industry by being the first to refine gold to 99.99% purity, which we call “four nines” purity, in 1982, and we surpassed that with 99.999% purity, “five nines”, in 1998.
We took an even greater step in that direction last November by launching an innovative product called “exchange traded receipts” under the Canadian gold reserves program on the Toronto Stock Exchange, which allows individual investors to directly own title to physical gold stored at the mint. By the first day of trading, $600 million had been raised in what became one of Canada's largest IPOs in 2011.
We're also proud of what we've achieved in our numismatics business line, which produces what are more commonly known as collector coins and medals, the most prominent of which are numerous Canadian military honours, the Queen's diamond jubilee, and more recently the Rick Hansen relay medal.
These coins and medals are important vehicles by which the mint celebrates a tremendous diversity of Canadian themes. We bring the story of Canada to life through coins featuring innovative technologies such as lasering, laser etching, and holograms, ranging in scale from half a gram to 10 kilograms, as was the case with the pure gold coin to celebrate Bill Reid's iconic sculpture The Spirit of Haida Gwaii. We are very proud to have produced a long line of coins celebrating first nations art with names like Alex Janvier, Jody Broomfield, and Corinne Hunt. Our collector coins are avidly sought by collectors and consumers in Canada and around the world, and they represent a very fast-growing part of our business.
Commemoration and celebration are also a part of the core responsibilities which we have proudly fulfilled since 1935, when the first silver dollar bearing the iconic Voyageur image was issued in honour of King George the V, who was Canada's sovereign.
As we speak, the Mint is promoting an ambitious array of collector coins for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Just two weeks ago, we were also proud to take our first step in joining the national celebration of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 by unveiling a new Proof Silver Dollar dedicated to this historic conflict with the assistance of the minister responsible for the Mint, the Honourable Jim Flaherty.
Many annual silver dollar issues have followed since 1935, but it can be argued that the first true program was the commemorative circulation coin series issued for Canada's centennial in 1967. Every circulating denomination was given a new, iconic animal design, created by the hand of legendary Canadian artist Alex Colville. Redesigned only for Canada's centennial year, over 600 million of these coins circulated and were avidly collected by millions of Canadians.
Public opinion research indicates that Canada's Centennial was one of our most treasured national celebrations and our coins have been cited as one of the most remembered legacies of that milestone.
From 1973 to 1976, the Mint issued its most ambitious collector coin program yet, with an unprecedented series of $5 and $10 silver coins, celebrating the majesty of the Games and a powerful symbol of Canada's coming of age.
In 1992, the Mint introduced a new series of 25¢ circulation coins to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Confederation. For the first time in our history, the Mint involved the public, including children, in the coin design process by launching a national competition, inviting amateur and professional artists to create 12 new commemorative coins, one for each Canadian province and territory at the time. Some 11,000 drawings were presented to a panel of artists, public figures and citizens from across the country, resulting in 12 distinct portraits of Canada, icons of our broad and diverse landscape.
The Mint's aim has always been to inspire Canadians, to help them treasure their history, culture and values, and to make them feel proud to be Canadian. The Millennium was not only a turning point for Canada, but for the Mint as well.
Once again, we invited the public, including children, through the Millennium Coin Design Contest, to submit designs for 24 Millennium 25¢ circulation coins; one for each month of 1999 and 2000.
Public reaction to being given a voice in commemorating a national event was extremely positive, with 66,000 drawings received in response to this coin design contest. Again, our market research continues to tell us that this initiative ranks as one of our most memorable programs.
Since 2004, when we issued the world's first coloured circulation coin with the 25¢ Poppy and another 25¢ coin celebrating the 400th anniversary of the first settlement in North America, in Acadie, the Mint decided to issue commemorative circulation coins annually.
In addition to two other Poppy coins in 2008 and 2010, this gave us themes such as: “Lucky Loonies” for every summer and winter Olympic and Paralympic Games since the legendary Salt Lake City Games of 2002; the Centennial of Saskatchewan and Alberta, where the public was invited for the first time to vote online for the winning designs of these two coins; the Pink Ribbon campaign; Quebec City's 400th anniversary; the centennials of the Montreal Canadiens and the Saskatchewan Roughriders; and from 2007 to 2010, we produced 17 coins for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games. Public online voting was also reintroduced to select the final themes that appeared on our 25¢ coins, celebrating the Top Three Moments in Canadian Winter Games history.
Recently, we celebrated the centennial of Parks Canada on a commemorative $1-dollar coin and we are continuing to release our 5-coin circulation series celebrating our legendary nature.
Every new commemorative circulation coin is promoted through varying combinations of print, television and online advertising. Additionally, the Mint is an avid user of social media to reach new audiences. I encourage you to take a look at our Twitter and Facebook pages where our followers are growing daily.
Every new coin issued by the Mint gives us an opportunity to strike a chord with the general public and provoke some reflection about what Canada means to them. Our experience with the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games was a pleasant revelation for us in terms of our products' potential for creating public engagement.
We opened pavilions in downtown Vancouver for both the Olympic and Paralympic winter games, and the reaction of the public and visitors completely exceeded our expectations. The Vancouver 2010 athlete medals and all our signature products were on display for 150,000 visitors at our pavilions during the games. Both of our exhibit spaces were totally accessible to the mobility-impaired, and we were especially pleased to easily welcome a great number of handicapped visitors during the Paralympic Games.
One tried and true way to reach out to Canadians and get new circulation coins into their hands is to hold public coin exchanges at which people come to an event venue to trade their loose change for new commemorative coins at face value. In this way more than 600,000 Vancouver 2010 circulation coins were exchanged with the public during the winter games.
We made such an impression in Vancouver that we decided to open our third boutique there in early 2011. We're still there today retailing our products and using our new store as a springboard for numerous coin exchanges and local outreach initiatives. Just last week we put on a very successful program of activities to support Vancouver's celebration of the year of the dragon, and we are very proud to be part of the community in Vancouver.
We routinely visit different regions of the country to take Canada's Mint to its people, from Baddeck, Nova Scotia, for the centennial of powered flight in Canada, to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, for the celebrated Saskatchewan Roughriders centennial. We also value the partnerships we have with other federal departments, agencies, and organizations, such as we had with Parks Canada for its centennial last year or with the Royal Canadian Legion whenever a new poppy coin is launched. We also act as members of the interdepartmental commemoration committee and its multiple working groups. We value opportunities to join events and celebrations around the country, and that's what we intend to do on the road to Canada's 150th in 2017.
We continue to research themes and subjects that matter to Canadians and continue to tell the story of our great country one coin at a time. We also track the retention rate of our new commemorative coins to determine the extent to which Canadians are collecting these coins, and the results are extremely positive. We estimate that about two-thirds of the special commemorative coins we've issued since 2004 have been saved by Canadians.
We look forward to working with our colleagues in various federal departments to bring out the best of Canada to its citizens and to leave the lasting impression that our natural, historic, and cultural heritage deserves.
It will now be my pleasure to take the committee's questions.