Monday, January 31, 2011

Things That Suck in Canada

I love Canada, but there are three things that suck something fierce in my country (no, this post will not talk about taxes): banks, cell phone connections, and the Internet. These three areas are monopolized, which is never good because when there is a monopoly, competition dies. And when there is no competition, there is no incentive to provide goods and services that are even marginally decent.

Canadian banks charge you for every breath you take. Depositing, withdrawing, having an account - everything carries a fee. They mess up, steal your money, and charge you for this transaction. (This actually happened to me. National Bank of Canada stole $1,000 from me, and I could do nothing to get it back. They even recognized they messed up, but that money has never been recovered. By me, that is.) 

They also have this weird policy of "freezing" any money you deposit. I deposit some money in cash, and can't have access to it for days. If you deposit a check, it's frozen at least for a week. If the check is American, your money is frozen for 30 days. I once deposited a check from the Treasury of the US in the amount of $250. And then I had to wait for 30 days for it to clear. I mean, I know the US Treasury is not in great shape, but you can reasonably expect it to be able to clear a $250 check, right? After I moved to the US, I kept bugging bank tellers, unable to believe how easy banking was in the US: "So you are saying that I can deposit this check and have access to my money immediately? Like, right now? Like, this very moment? For real?" 

Canadian Internet banking is a story that I'll keep for another day because it's too bizarre. And if you dare to lose your bank card, woe betide you. You will be tortured and abused by the condescending bank tellers to the degree where you will start considering how great life was before the banking system came into existence.

The cell phone services in Canada are equally nasty. The quality of the connection sucks. Canadians know that there are specific places in their houses, apartments, offices, streets, where cell phone connection just dies. Every conversation I have with my sister who lives in Montreal is punctured by her saying "OK, I'm gonna get disconnected now. OK, the connection is about to drop again. Don't hang up if the sound disappears, it might get back up in a minute." And the cost of having a cell phone has always been sky-high. When I moved back to Canada for a year in 2007-8, I could never understand my cell phone bill. I kept thinking that somebody put the wrong number of zeros on the amount I owed. My happy-go-lucky American habit of blabbing on the cell phone all day long had to be abandoned.

The Internet connection is also expensive, slow and bad. In the US, you can always catch some free Wi-Fi somewhere, but in Canada it’s all password protected. Even in Starbucks, you can’t get free Wi-Fi. Every time I go back to Canada, I prepare to struggle with the Internet connection. As a blogger in the US, I'm used to being able to blog from pretty much anywhere. In Canada, though, I always feel disconnected from the world. Every trip to Canada is spent in a frantic search for a connection. And even if you are fortunate enough to find one, prepare for it to drop for no apparent reason at the worst moment possible.

As if things weren't bad enough as it is, Canadian monopolists are now trying to make the Internet connection even harder to get and even more expensive:
The CRTC has decided to allow Bell and other big telecom companies to change the way Canadians are billed for Internet access. Metering, or usage-based billing (UBB), will mean that service providers can charge per byte in addition to their basic access charges. The move is sure to stifle digital creativity in Canada while the rest of the world looks on and snickers.
 This is so wrong, people.

11 comments:

KT said...

I can relate with the banking and internet problems. It sounds just like Nigeria. I remember complaining terribly when I found out that my Nigerian bank charges a stupidly costly amount of money every month just because I possess a debit card and would keep charging me every month whether I use it or not. They don't freeze money for that long however, so I guess they're better than Canada, and not all of them even give you problems with possessing a debit card. Most of them suck though.

Internet access is the maddest. You pay so much to use it, and don't get the services you need wherever you need it. You have to be in certain places where the connection in strong, or else you're doomed. It's a wonder that I was still able to blog consistently while I was at home.

One is surprised that Canada has this problems though. Isn't it supposed to be a developed country whose currency still has the face of the British queen?

astridvanwoerkom said...

In the Netherlands, most things were better before they were privatized - like postal service, telecommunication services (before the Internet was in wide use), etc. Now I understand there is a difference between public sector and monopoly, and if I understand correctly your banks, ISPs and cellphoen companies are privatized but have a monopoly.

Clarissa said...

Oh yes, the postal services. They suck so bad in Canada, it hurts. But it hasn't been privatized.

I think it's all about monopoly: governmental or corporate.

Pagan Topologist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Clarissa said...

Oh, yes, the US Postal Service is great. Fast, efficient, really good. Unlike the Canadian system when you never know when anything is going to arrive. So you are absolutely right here.

Pagan Topologist said...

Some people copmplain about the U. S. Postal Service, but I have nothing but praise for them. I have had uniformly good experiences with them. So, I don't think monopolies are necessarily the problem. Also, years ago when the u. S. phone system was a monopoly, it was simpler than today, but it worked much better, in my experience.

My apologies for those outrageous typos, Clarissa. If you want to post this correction, go ahead; I shall then delete the original. However, this would make your reply precede the comment to which it was a reply...

Clarissa said...

Please don't worry about the typos. I, for one, didn't even notice them. Online, people write very fast to simulate a real conversation. So I don't think that typos are to be worried about too much.

I sometimes (often) even forget to spell-check the posts.

Canukistani said...

Yes. Canada sucks and corporate America agrees with you. After reviewing the data maybe we should all pack our bags and move to Egypt especially since Rep. Peter King recently stated that 80% of American mosques are staffed by radical Muslims! The 2011 index of economic freedom is a joint project of the Heritage Foundation, a right wing think tank and the Wall Street Journal. I set up charts based on their data comparing America, Canada and Egypt for the period spanning the years from 2001 to 2011 for government spending, labour freedom and fiscal freedom. The score is from 0 (worst) to 100(best). Of course remember my caveat about Egyptian data but this is really about American perceptions. The quotes are from the index of economic freedom website.

Fiscal freedom (Egypt 90, Canada 80, US 70):

“Egypt has below-average personal income and corporate tax rates. The top individual and corporate income tax rates are 20 percent. A special tax of 40.55 percent remains in effect for oil, gas, and exploration companies. Other taxes include a property tax and general sales tax (GST) that functions as a value-added tax (VAT). In the most recent year, overall tax revenue as a percentage of GDP was 15.4 percent.”

“Canada has moderate tax rates. The top federal income tax rate is 29 percent, and provincial rates range from 10 percent to 24 percent. The general corporate tax rate was reduced to 18 percent from 19.5 percent as of January 1, 2010, with provincial rates ranging from 10 percent to 16 percent. Other taxes include a value-added tax (VAT) and a property tax. In the most recent year, overall tax revenue as a percentage of GDP was 32.2 percent.”

”U.S. tax rates are burdensome. The top income and corporate tax rates are 35 percent. Other taxes include an estate tax and excise taxes. Additional income, sales, and property taxes are assessed at the state and local levels. In the most recent year, overall tax revenue as a percentage of GDP was 26.9 percent. Should authorities choose not to extend tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003, the tax rate on the top individual income bracket will jump to 39.6 percent beginning in 2011, and the top capital gains tax rate will increase from 15 percent to 20 percent.”

Now that the house is controlled by the Republicans and influenced by the tea party, Americans can look forward to Egyptian style taxes. Of course that also implies Egyptian style poverty and lifestyles –out with big screen televisions and in with radios if the electricity works. Richard Escrow in the Huffington Post said about Egypt yesterday, “Imagine: A government run by and for the rich and powerful. Leaders who lecture others about "sacrifice" and deficits while cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy. A system so corrupt that rich executives can break the law without fear of being punished. Increasing poverty and hardship even as the stock market rises. And now, a nation caught between a broken political system and a populist movement that could be hijacked by religious extremists at any moment.” Sounds like America? He goes on to say, “Spurred on by the IMF and the World Bank, Egypt eased corporate regulations and began privatizing its bank sector. It lowered individual and corporate tax rates, while at the same time setting new deficit targets for slowed-down government spending. That won praise from Middle Eastern news outlets and corporation-friendly multinational institutions.”


http://www.heritage.org/index/visualize?countries=UnitedStates|Canada|Egypt&type=3

(continued)

Canukistani said...

Labour freedom (US 90, Canada 80, Egypt 55):

“U.S. labour regulations are highly flexible. The non-salary cost of employing a worker is low, and the severance payment system is not burdensome. With private-sector union membership steadily shrinking, more union members currently work for the government than for private businesses.”

“Canada’s efficient and flexible labour regulations enhance employment and productivity growth. The non-salary cost of employing a worker is moderate, and dismissing a redundant employee is not burdensome. Rules on work hours are flexible.”

“The impact of the Egyptian government’s new labour code has been limited. The labour market remains rigid, with high non-salary costs of employing workers and restrictions on work hours.”

The new Egyptian labour law includes new protections for workers such as a 60 day notice of layoffs. Of course America would never accept such socialist concepts as worker protection or paid leave of absence for maternity situations; however, one can always have room for improvement. One new Republican congressman called for a review of child labour laws. Now that the illegal aliens are leaving there is a whole new demand for cheap labour.

http://www.heritage.org/index/visualize?countries=UnitedStates|Canada|Egypt&type=10

Government spending (Egypt 65, America 55, Canada 53):

“Following the global financial crisis, Egypt adopted a fiscal stimulus package measuring 1.5 percent of GDP. As a result, total government expenditures, including consumption and transfer payments, rose significantly to 34 percent of GDP in the most recent year. The budget deficit is around 7 percent of GDP. Subsidies are widespread in oil, transport, and housing and are poorly targeted in the food sector. Privatization has stalled.”

“In the most recent year, total American government expenditures, including consumption and transfer payments, equalled 38.9 percent of GDP. Spending increases totalled well over $1 trillion in 2009 alone, an increase of more than 20 percent over 2008. Stimulus spending has hurt the fiscal balance and placed federal debt on an unsustainable trajectory. Gross government debt exceeded 90 percent of GDP in 2010.”

“For Canada in the most recent year, total government expenditures, including consumption and transfer payments, held steady at 39.7 percent of GDP. Privatization is widespread, and the government encourages competition even in sectors formerly operated by government or in privately owned monopolies. With a lower debt-to-GDP ratio, Canada was well positioned to finance a significant stimulus plan in the wake of the global downturn.”

Again Egypt leads with government spending but they better get their act together with the privatization. If America stops that stimulus craziness and listens to Paul Ryan hope to see a big improvement in this area. Canada is a lost cause but what can you expect from socialist Canukistan.

http://www.heritage.org/index/visualize?countries=UnitedStates|Canada|Egypt&type=4

Pagan Topologist said...

I cannot help it. Perfection and precision in the use of language are obsessions of mine. Usually, I proofread.

sarcozona said...

The USPS does have competition from UPS and FedEx. Perhaps that's why it's not so bad?