Thursday, February 1, 2007

A Pinch of This, A Dab of That...

Greetings, ES Nation... once again, real life has been getting in the way of my duty to tell you all how you should think. I'll have to get on that plan to launch "ES" merchandise and quit my jobs, so I can just blog all day. ;-)

Now then, only have a bit of time, so I'll throw out a bunch of quick hitter today. If people comment on particular topics, I'll flesh them out in frther detail later.

The Ads
Well, all too predictably, the press got up in arms over what is universally referred to as "American-style" ads the Tories hav eput together about Stephane Dion. Nope, no anti-American bias in the mainstream media there. Just every time they want people to hate something, they throw "American" into the name (American-style attack ads, American-style health care).

The Tories took a calculated risk by running these ads - could it be construed as desperation? Yes. Could one presume that, by attacking Dion in this way, the Tories are legitimizing him as a threat to their grip on power? Yes - but who ELSE would the Tories consider a threat to their hold on Parliament? Are Duceppe,
Layton or May going to win a majority?

The bottom line here is you only get one chance to make a first impression. The Liberals, largely with the media's help, made Stock Day look like a total buffoon shortly after he came onto the scene federally, and the Canadian Alliance paid for it at the polls. If Harper has learned a lesson from this, he has Sensei Chretien to thank for the education... and since the Tory mistrust of the mainstream media is both ingrained and probably legitimate, paying for ad time seems the best way to go. Is it ugly? Yes. But it's a calculated risk - and one that may end up paying off at the polls. Bad news for Dion. Dare I say, good news for Justin Trudeau, who may get to take a shot at taking his "rightful place" in a few years?

Hancock on Health
Dave wants us to be healthy. He figures, shockingly, that one of the best ways to save the government money in healthcare is to promote healthy living. Wait a minute, he's putting the onus on US? Nah, that'll never work...

But seriously, Dave has been all over the Health portfolio since first opening it up just over a month ago, and he's made some great suggestions. Will everyone be happy with them? No. Will some of them be difficult to put into place? Sure. But will we all benefit in the long run? Absolutely. It's like the Metric system - not everyone wanted to change, but it made sense in the long term. Among Dave's pondering as late:

  • Province-wide smoking ban: General ban? No way. That's prohibition, and won't work. Ban in all public spaces and buildings, including bars and casinos? It's going to happen eventually anyway, it's a great idea that will save lives, and if you do it across the porvince in one fell swoop, no businesses will suffer a loss of customers to the bar the next town over. Get it done.
  • Eliminate Health Care Premiums: Taking away the tax that everyone sees, and replacing it with a bump in the taxes we automatically lose off each cheque, is a smart move. It may be a political shell game, but in the end, we're always happiest when we're not thinking about specific taxes. Winner.
  • Healthy Living Tax Breaks: HELL yes, and about bloody time. People who spend their own money to get healthy will, as a rule, cost the public less money in the health care system, so those healthy choices should be rewarded and partially subsidized by the government. Giving people tax breaks on exercise equipment, gym memberships, etc. is going to be a pain in the butt to get set up, but once it's going it will give people a fiscal incentive to take responsibility for their own health. One wonders if Dave is going to listen to some of Gary McPherson's ideas from the leadership race, and include therapies like chiropractic of chinese medicine either as covered by Alberta Health or as eligible services for tax write-off...

Is Stephen Fat?
Answer: It doesn't matter. Dion comes off as a petulant child for bringing it up on the heels of what he knows are going to be ads aimed at him. He brought it up in a joking way, but the Tory ads are focused on his policies and leadership, not on his accent or his physical appearance, which are (and should be) off-limits as personal.

That said... the Tories come off as the big losers here, because most casual observers won't split that hair. They'll look at this little temper tantrum the Tories are throwing and say "if you can't take it, don't dish it out". They'll be right, of course, even though Dion's attack is personal and Harper's is professional. The Tories cemented their repuation as thin-skinned, quick to anger and ready-to-fight at the drop of a hat - not what a lot of people list as major selling points in a government.

ATM Fees
Jack Layton had a good idea. Excuse me while I go wash my hands for even having typed those words.

Back. Now look, if I actually add up my ATM fees over the past year, and add them to my account fees each month, I've paid probably $720 for a bank to hold my money, pay virtually no interest on it, and I've never once gone in to see a live human being about my account. No teller withdrawals, nothing. The ATM and its explosion in popularity (along wth Internet banking) has reduced the number of living, breathing people banks need working at each branch. And yet, despite the fact that the advance has saved the banks millions in wages, we're charged further fees for the privilege, "for the convenience". Well, if it's convenient for me AND it's convenient for the bank, why don't we drop the charge and call it even?

An ATM transfer costs the bank nothing to process, save for a slip of paper and a couple watts of electricity. The calls from machine to computer are all local. There's no need to charge me to use the machine, because by using it, I (and millions of Canadians like me each day) am SAVING the bank thousands of dollars by not going into a branch and dealing with real, live people who are paid by the hour.

Non-brand ATMs should still charge - they're businesses, usually put there by the establishment or by a third-party, offering a convenient place to withdraw money that you can then turn around and give to the waitress/throw into a VLT. Convenient? Yes. Does the bar or restaurant is most cases get the money right back? Sure. But a private entrepreneur put that machine there, and filled it with his or her own money - for that risk, they deserve a chance to make $0.75 on a transaction.

But the bank's ATM is sitting there, at the bank, holding MY money. That I pay the bank $20 per month to watch. And if I want some of my money, they're going to charge me to give it up? When they're already turning hundreds of millions in profits each year, on projects they're investing in with MY MONEY? No. Good business, bad sense. Give me back my money! Jack's got a good poisition on an issue that affects a lot of Canadians. Unfortunately for him, it's a minor annoyance rather than a full-on crisis, but with the NDP polling numbers as late, he needs every ray of sunshine he can find.

- ES

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


ATM fees are a pain, but banning them as Jack Layton would do is just additional government interference. Rather, one should just open up the banking system to competition. The big Canadian banks have protected status in Canada under the Bank Act, and this is one reason that they are almost invariably profitable. I say put no ban on fees, but open it up to other players and the fees will come down naturally (likely to zero).

The entrance of ING and other foreign "virtual" banks forced the Canadian banks to reintroduce the idea of high-interest savings accounts. I bank at BMO, and they had no such thing until five or so years ago, if memory serves. They do now, and the interest rate they pay is close enough to ING that I don't bother to change.

I also have a bank plan that allows me at certain number of transactions now for free, with no monthly fee if I maintain a minimum balance. Yes, some people cannot maintain a minimum balance if they live cheque to cheque, but it is also silly that some of these same people draw money from other ATMs daily. Walk another block, use your bank's ATM, and save yourself a couple of bucks.