Sir John A. Macdonald toonie to celebrate 1st PM's 200th birthday

Sir John A. Macdonald will be honoured with a spot on the $2 coin for the 200th anniversary of his birth, according to a notice posted Friday.

Canada's 1st PM led building of railroad coast to coast, created precursor to RCMP

Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada's first prime minister and a Father of Confederation, appears in an undated portrait. (Pittaway & Jarvis/Library and Archives Canada)

It's hard enough to know what to buy your own father for his birthday. So what do you do to celebrate the 200th birthday of a Father of Confederation?

The government of Canada has an idea: give him a place on the toonie opposite the Queen.

Cabinet last week approved a $2 coin featuring Sir John A. Macdonald's portrait "against a map of Canada in the background" and a banner bearing his name, according to a notice posted online Friday.

The coin's outer ring is to include four images of a maple leaf — two at the top and two at the bottom — with the years 1815 and 2015 inscribed. 

There's little information available in the notice, and a spokesperson for the Royal Canadian Mint declined to provide details before the coin is unveiled early in the new year.

Father of Confederation

Macdonald was a reluctant convert to the need to merge what was once the province of Canada with Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, but eventually he worked with Sir George-Étienne Cartier and other Fathers of Confederation to create the country of Canada.

He became Canada's first prime minister in 1867 and spent more than six years in the role before the then Liberal-Conservatives were defeated. Macdonald returned to office in 1878 and remained prime minister until he died in 1891.

The reverse side of the toonie usually features the iconic polar bear, although the Mint produced a variation to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Quebec City in 2008. That $2 coin featured a design by Quebec artist Geneviève Bertrand with the dates 1608 and 2008.

The Mint's website says only six million Quebec City anniversary coins circulated, while it produced more than 17 million of the regular toonies.

The artist's initials, GG, are to be imprinted on the Macdonald coin. That could indicate the portrait of Macdonald is to be done by Glen Green, a Vancouver artist who designed five of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic quarters, including the hockey and curling quarters.

With files from Chris Hall

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