Thursday, February 10, 2011

A lovely victory for transgendered rights in Canada

The Canadian House of Commons passed a private member's bill yesterday - February 9, 2011 - by a narrow vote of 143 to 135 to provide protection against discrimination in the Canadian Human Rights Act to transgendered and transsexual citizens. It was a historic day, indeed.

A close friend of mine is a F-to-M transsexual which has made the issue personal for me. I continue to be stunned by the willingness of so many conservatives to remain ignorant on this and other issues. That explains the narrow vote, with ignorant Stephen Harper and most Conservative MPs (and sadly a handful of socially conservative Liberals) leading the charge to ensure a very vulnerable group in our society continues to live without protection from discrimination. This followed yet another despicable campaign by bigot Charles McVety to mislead Canadians about the nature of the bill. It's always the same story - passage of human rights protection will somehow lead to catastrophe, these types argue. They can be assured that transsexuals are already using public washrooms and nothing in this bill will change that. Shame on all those bigots.

As John Ibbitson writes in the Globe, it was a moral victory for the transgendered and transsexual communities and those who support true equality. Sadly, Harper, ever the enemy of democracy, will likely use his unelected stooges in the Senate to deny the bill passage into law (if an election call doesn't kill the bill first.)

Yes, we have yet another reason to remove Stephen Harper from office as soon as possible. The next election can't come soon enough!

Congrats to NDP MP Bill Siksay for sponsoring the bill. Congrats to all the MPs, including Tories John Baird, Lawrence Cannon, Lisa Raitt and James Moore and many others, who supported it. A special thank you to Marlene Jennings who took on the falsehoods pushed by bigot McVety with typical gusto. I love her.

Greedy Scotiabank, despite tax cuts, gouges customers and drives this fed up customer away

I've been a longtime Scotiabank customer. I switched from CIBC over a decade ago because CIBC refused to allow access to its ATM machines outside working hours at its Carlton/Church location in downtown Toronto at the time due to concerns about homeless people sleeping inside its location at night. I was also impressed that Scotia was the only one of five Canadian banks not to try to merge during the 1990s.

However, my relationship with Scotiabank is coming to an end, at least when it comes to my regular chequing account. Why? Despite the generous corporate tax cuts provided by the Stephen Harper government, lowering all corporate taxes again on January 1st from 18% to 16.5%, borrowing from the country's children and grandchildren to pay for them, Scotia has decided to gouge its customers yet again.

On February 1st, Scotiabank increased its monthly charge for a basic banking plan to $8.95 from $7, a 27 per cent increase. At the same time, the number of debit transactions covered by the monthly fee fell to 25 from 30. The monthly fee for the Scotia One Account, which offers an unlimited number of transactions went up to $11.95 from $9.95, a 20 per cent increase. CIBC is similarly gouging its customers.

These monthly fees on accounts with barely anything in them on a regular basis (at least in my case) have recently been major irritants at $7 plus more if you exceed 30 transactions. Now at $8.95 a month plus more if you have more than 25 transactions in that month, they're intolerable.

I, of course, didn't find out about these fee increases from Scotiabank. I had to read about them in the Toronto Star yesterday, nine days into February. The changes also include a whopping jump to 19% on overdraft payments, up from about prime + 5.0. This is practically theft to customers who might've been in overdraft after February 1st, but weren't made aware of the fact that Scotia had more than doubled the percentage they were charging on those overdraft amounts.

Scott Tribe adds his thoughts on the same subject here.

There seems to be a sense among many in the corporate world that the hard-working, middle class is an endless tap from which millions of dollars can be sucked at will. Scotiabank, Canada's third-biggest lender, earned $1.1 billion just in the third quarter last year. That compared with a profit of $902 million in the same period in 2009.

This is not a corporation that needed a tax cut on January 1st of this year of 1.5%, one month before it would go back to long-time customers and gouge them for more!

I've had enough. I'm closing my Scotia chequing account and opening a new account at PC Financial which doesn't gouge its customers every month with a monthly fee. They even offer a tiny bit of interest on money in these accounts every month, unlike Scotia and other big banks.

I hope more customers of the major banks follow suit and close their basic accounts to move to institutions that are less disgustingly greedy and more respectful of their hard-working customers in these difficult times. ING Direct also offers chequing accounts with zero monthly fees plus a bit of interest on balances.

These are the big corporations that Stephen Harper and his minions call 'job creators', deserving of tax cuts on January 1st while the rest of us saw our monthly payroll deductions increase.

My father always used to say: 'The Conservatives are the party of the rich and the party of big business.' He was right. We need a new government in Ottawa as soon as possible, one that is on our side, not these endlessly greedy, gouging big banks!