Thursday, January 12, 2017

No Real Change to Payday Loan Lending Rates in the New Year

(This story originally appeared at

Maybe you missed this announcement in December from the Ontario government? 

"Our government is committed to protecting consumers and helping people in their everyday lives. This includes lowering the cost for taking out a payday loan, and further changes to ensure that financial services are fairer and more transparent for all. " — Marie-France Lalonde, Minister of Government and Consumer Services

This is how the Minister characterizes lowering the maximum total cost of borrowing for a payday loan from $21 to $18 per $100 borrowed.  That new protection will happen on of January 1, 2017.  This move, after years of dilly dallying, lowers the interest rate that predatory lenders can charge from 546% to 390% per annum.  The Criminal Code says charging anything above 60% is a crime. But Ontario and most other provinces believe an exemption is in order for this so-called industry. (We’ve written before on this.  See

Legislating the Banks

Prior to the Ontario announcement, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives put out a report developed through a survey of ACORN Canada members who have accessed payday loans.

In A Survey of High Interest Alternative Financial Services, author Joe Fantauzzi concludes that banks “through denying low and moderate income families access to credit, are driving people to access fringe high interest products like payday loans, installment loans and more.”

So, the federal government should insist that banks be more responsive to low and middle-income families.  The report suggests that access to low interest credit for emergencies and low interest overdraft protection be legislated.  Lowering NSF fees from $45 to $10 and ensuring no-holds on cheques would be positive changes.  Alternatives to predatory lenders like a postal bank and credit union products geared to moderate and low income households are also called for.  Here is the report.

Together with the payday loan industry the Ontario government has become a partner in predation. 

Perhaps the federal government can change this.  The CCPA’s report shows how.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Hamilton Politics

Boundary Making*

                     Sixteen blinkered decision makers in the city of ambitions

                                                  Advised by experts to create more democratic conditions

                                                   Know, of course, what`s best for the municipality

                                                   Yet their views are fraught with illogicality

                                                   We need leadership not colouring competitions.


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Canadians Need Access to Reasonably Priced Financial Services

(Here is a letter to the editor I sent recently to a number of newspapers .)

Dear Editor,

Good communities provide residents and businesses with easy access to reasonably priced financial services.

Such access is eroding in Canada.

The big five chartered banks have been exiting downtown cores of major Canadian cities for years.

Many small communities, have no banks or credit unions at all.

Moreover, fees are an issue. Only thirty years ago, banks did not charge fees but now these charges are amongst the highest in the world.

“Fringe” financial institutions like Money Mart and the Cash Store have stepped in to fill the void and make big bucks while charging exorbitant fees.

There is some regulation of these fringe institutions. In 2008, for example, the Ontario government, concerned about excessive charges, brought in regulations. These controls were inadequate so the government is in the process of setting new rules.

Meanwhile many Canadians don’t have bank accounts.

The solution to this problem (and others) is to bring back postal banking.

Canadians had access to Postal Banking for more than one hundred years. When the Post Office Savings Bank ceased operations in 1968, nearly 300,000 accounts closed down. At its peak in 1908, deposits in the bank totalled 47.5 million (equivalent to $1 billion in today’s money). Meanwhile postal banking is thriving in other parts of the world. Japan Post Bank, for example, has $2 trillion in assets.

The government is currently conducting a public review of Canada Post, Postal banking is an idea whose time has come again.

Bob Wood
Port Rowan

Interested readers can learn more at

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Six Council Votes that Show why Hamilton Ward Boundaries Need to Change*

(This story appeared originally in August at 

Here is some history most of you will know.

In 2001 amalgamation of the City of Hamilton with Ancaster, Dundas Flamborough, Glanbrook and Stoney Creek took place. The amalgamation resulted in eight council seats for the 70% of residents living in old Hamilton. Seven council seats were set up for the 30% percent in the five former suburbs. Sixteen years later it seems that important council votes support the minority (30%) over the majority (70%).  For example:

*Households in the former suburbs continue to pay only about a third of the transit taxes that residents of the old city pay.

*Harbour cleanup has been delayed. Suburban Councillors (and then Mayor Bratina) did not support speeding up the cleanup of the Randle Reef. A proposed meeting with federal and provincial politicians might have done that.
*Nearly all suburban councillors voted in May to defer a decision on whether Hamilton wants the billion-dollar provincial investment for Light Rapid Transit (LRT).
*Suburban councillors (and Terry Whitehead) voted against looking at the possibility of tolls for “out-of-town” truck traffic on the Red Hill and Linc expressways.
*The King Street bus-only lane was killed by suburban councillors and three Hamilton mountain councillors.
*In April 2015 those 7 suburban councillors (along with Councillor Whitehead) voted to postpone the often delayed ward boundary review.  Fortunately, this vote lost on a tie.
That tie vote means that there is now an opportunity to change ward boundaries.  Contact your elected municipal officials to Make Change.  Tell them those boundaries must respect the important democratic principle of fair representation by population.
*CATCH (Citizens at City Hall) is a volunteer community group that encourages civic participation in Hamilton.  Their articles which were the prime source for the above can be found at

Monday, August 01, 2016

Ontario Government to Help Tenants - But Hold on a Minute

(This story originally appeared in July at

This looks like a classic case of government responding to an interest group at the expense of the broader public interest.

We are talking about the consultation paper recently put out by the provincial government.  The paper is called Consultation Paper on Proposals to Encourage Small Landlords to Provide Rental Housing.

This paper purports to be looking for input to improve the Ontario Government’s Long Term Affordable Housing Strategy (LTAHS).

The government has floated a bunch of ideas.  They claim these changes would help small landlords create more housing and address barriers that these potential affordable housing creators face.

Unfortunately, these ideas, if implemented, would “contribute to further homelessness and erode hard-won tenant protections.”

That is the opinion expressed by the Advocacy Centre for Tenants of Ontario (ACTO.)  ACTO is a legal clinic which works to better the housing situation of Ontario residents who have low incomes including tenants, co-op members and people who are homeless.  ACTO put together a forceful submission to the Ministry of Housing. A few examples of the kind of ideas floated in the paper and ACTO’s responses follows.

Ministry Idea:      
Require tenants to disclose any issues that they intend to raise at rental eviction hearings prior to the hearing.

ACTO Response:  
This proposal would bring back procedural barriers to justice for tenants.

Ministry Idea:      
Allow landlords and tenants to file the unsworn statements in support of  applications and motions, rather than affidavits.                                  

ACTO Response:
Clearly the impetus for this proposal is a desire to expedite landlords’ eviction applications.              

Ministry Idea:  
Explore whether any changes should be made to the process for appealing  decisions of the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) to Divisional Court.

ACTO Response:
Based on the widely–reported actions of a few criminals, landlord organizations are attempting to limit the effectiveness of the Superior Court’s supervision of the LTB by making it even more difficult than it already is for tenants to exercise these important and rarely-used appeal rights.                                                            

So, you’ll get the idea from these brief excerpts that the government’s proposals will be of no help to tenants.  And one other thing we should mention is this.  By and large the proposed changes would apply to most tenants not just those renting from small landlords.  

You can read ACTO’s full submission at!AvRzOEPfSVfDk3a5u5WgjoU8Rgff

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

City of Hamilton Moves Forward with Poverty Initiative

Earlier this month Hamilton City Council supported Mayor Fred Eisenberger’s motion to commit $50M towards poverty reduction.  Eisenberger (right) had brought the motion to the City's General Issues Committee in April.

Among other things Council approved:

  • A $20 million allocation to increase affordable housing and improve the state of good repair of housing.
  • $3 million a year over 10 years for poverty reduction with the funds coming from the merger of Horizon Utilities Corporation and several other local utilities.
  • Engagement with partners to help develop a strategy.                                                                                 
  • Leveraging of funding commitments. Loans and grants from senior levels of government, school boards, and foundations as well as other potential contributors from the private sector will be sought.

City staff have been directed to develop a detailed 10-year integrated poverty reduction plan by October.

Mayor Eisenberger attended a conference in Edmonton recently. The conference, called Cities Reducing Poverty - When Mayors Lead, obviously inspired Eisenberger to do just that.

(Here are some reflections from Danielle Klooster of the Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance on the conference

Back to Hamilton, where there was some opposition in the community and from two members of Council to the city taking some leadership.  Predictably, such opposition is based on myths and misunderstanding and/or just plan ignorance about poverty.

You’ve heard them.

These problems are the responsibility of senior governments.

You are encouraging more generational welfare and poverty by making more money available.

It will duplicate services.
 Howard Elliott did a fine job of addressing these myths and others in an editorial in the Hamilton Spectator.

You can read it at

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

London Ontario Endorses Poverty Plan

 (This post originally appeared at 

Earlier this month Last night City Council in London Ontario gave unanimous support to a report called London for All – A Roadmap to End Poverty.

An eight member panel including former Hamilton Deputy Medical Officer of Health Chris Mackie (pictured to the right) produced the report after six months of consultation. It contains 112 recommendations.  

Remarkably, many of these recommendations are intended to be acted upon within twelve months.

Here is a sampling of the recommendations.

Eight Recommendations from the (London Ontario) Mayor’s Advisory Panel on Poverty that Impressed Us

**Increase the number of organizations providing Indigenous Cultural Safety training.
**Become a Basic Income Guarantee pilot site.
**Engage landlords in keeping more people housed.
**Allow children under 12 to ride public transit free.
**Leverage funding and invest in the regeneration of existing London and Middlesex Housing   Corporation (LMHC) properties.
**Increase the number of licensed childcare spaces.
**Reduce the wait time to receive childcare subsidy
**Engage people with lived experience in democratic processes and institutions.

You can read the full report at