A Money Coach in Canada

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Hi all —

I joined the green party several months ago.  I think it’s to everybody’s benefit that their platform – the environment especially, and also social justice – is at least on the formal political radar.

Plus, I’ve always had a thing for the underdog.   They’ve made a LOT of ground in the past few years, but they are also the little-party-that-could and does not have the corporations or labour movement behind them as other parties do (or certainly not to the same extent).   As you can imagine, running campaigns is expensive, and it looks like another campaign is going to be required.

Even if you don’t think you’d ever vote for them (although I hope more of us will!), would you consider donating to the party to ensure at least this nascent party can continue offering an alternative to Canadians? This money coach thanks you!

DONATE: here

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Here’s a letter from Elizabeth May which I shamelessly cut and paste from an e-mail:

Dear Supporter,

Do you ever find yourself yearning for a time when Canadian politics was not quite so exciting?  When elections seemed to happen every four years and the two main parties represented a sort of middle ground, not great, but not scary?

Of course, these turbulent times are what is putting the wind in our Green sails, but it cannot be altogether satisfying to see our growth as a party while the country and the planet are in such turmoil.

I have never been so sure as I am today that Canada needs Green MPs in Parliament.  My own view is constantly reaffirmed by strangers who come up to me in train stations, airports, and farmers’ markets across Canada saying “Next time you have got to win a seat.  We all need you in Parliament.”

The party decision makers, the federal council elected by the members and the national campaign committee, realize this as well.  We know that an election could happen as soon as this fall.  We have learned a lot from the last campaign.  One central lesson learned is that we need to target and focus resources so that the Leader will be an MP when the election results are tallied.  But I do not want to be the only Green elected.  We have a campaign plan ready and a strategy for bringing home the results we want.

What we desperately need is to finish paying down the debt from the 2008 campaign, before we find ourselves in a 2009 campaign!  You will be happy to know that of the roughly $2.5 million we borrowed, we have paid back over $1.5 million.  Most of this was made possible through the federal financing rules and rebates from Elections Canada.  But, no surprise, the recession has affected our donors.  We need to reach out to more Canadians and we need our current donors to consider making regular monthly donations.

Would you be willing to take a moment to send this email to friends that you know support our goals and aims but may not already be members?

Even a $25 donation is a big help and, of course current Canadian tax law has important consequences. If the donor pays income tax, 3/4 of any donation up to $400 is rebated. $400 donation only costs $100.  It is an extremely cost-effective way to help make the change you want to see in the world.

Secondly, would you be willing to donate NOW knowing that paying down the debt is essential before the next campaign begins?

You know we won’t spend a penny on attack ads!  You know we will keep a positive message of hope.  You know we will work to engage young people and call for greater civic engagement by all Canadians.

That is the message of my new book, Losing Confidence: Power, Politics and the Crisis in Canadian Democracy.  For a limited time, if you send the Green Party of Canada a $400 donation, I will personally inscribe the book.  If you can send $500 I will inscribe two books and you can pass one along to friends and relatives.  (Never too early for Christmas shopping!)

If you cannot give more at this time, I totally understand. I hate to even ask again, as I know you have received appeals from the party before.  It is a big help if you can share this message with your email list of friends.

Thanks again, more than I can say for all your support.

Elizabeth May, O.C.
Leader
Green Party of Canada

Photo Credit:  Grant Neufeld

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Photo Credit: Angie22

I saw Twilight this weekend. Allegedly it’s as popular with the yummy-mummy crowd as its original teenage target market.

I can see why. While the acting was wooden and the dialogue banal, there’s no question that the eye-candy factor was off the scale. More importantly, and I expect this is the real appeal, it had all the themes of a classic high romance. Edward Cullen, a vampire, is entirely smitten with the gorgeous, strong-but-innocent Bella. So smitten is he, that he will wrestle down his most primal blood-lust urges in favour of offering her his love, his protection and his fierce yet tender care. Again and again he comes close, so very close, then with difficulty pulls himself back and practices Restraint of the Highest Order.

What woman wouldn’t respond to a gorgeous man who denies himself so entirely, for her sake and the sake of their love?

I couldn’t help but wonder:  does a woman or man who practices self-restraint with their money (I’m not talking cheaping out here, I mean practicing self-restraint for the greater good) have any sex appeal at all?  Any?

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Of my two daschunds, I didn’t anticipate it would be sleek, black, athletic Maggie The Adventuress who would have the back problem and I certainly didn’t think it would occur when she’s only just turned four.

Saturday afternoon she was reluctant to jump up onto the couch, Sunday morning she was increasingly inactive (I attributed it to the rainy day -she hates rain!), Sunday evening I was starting to get quite concerned and Monday at 5am when she woke me up to go outside (unusual) she didn’t return. Or not for a long time by which point I was panicked, convinced she’d crept away to die. Thankfully she came back after about 20 minutes, but she was clearly very bad by that point – she could only just barely walk, and when I picked her up she moaned in pain constantly as well as trembled from head to tail.

Then came the question most dog owners will face at some point: To make an emergency call to the vet, or to hang tight and see what happens? There is only one clinic in Yellowknife, and two vets, one of whom is on holiday. I opted to wait til the clinic opened.

The earliest I could get Maggie in was 2:15. The vet immediately suspected back problems, and two x-rays later showed no other issues (I thought perhaps she’d swallowed a stone – dogs do that sometimes). Maggie is confined to her crate for 3 weeks and medicated with Deramaxx. Odds are high that she has intervertebral disk disease – in short, a disk between her vertebrae burst which very often leads to paralysis of the hind legs. As you can imagine it’s extremely painful.

I broke down and wept last night — cried for this little creature who is traumatized, cried to think of her – her!- to lose her spunkiness, and cried for us all, who are still new to this city and without our community (oh yes, dogs have their own canine communities!) and having to go to a vet we’ve never met in such severe circumstances, and nobody up here knows that she is a downtown eastside daschund who had her own opinions on homelessness and attended many a Stand for Housing and was continually on the lookout for any politician’s heels to nip if he/she didn’t care that people were sleeping outside for goodness sake.

I wept. Thank God for friends and telephones. A trio of friends (thanks A, J, M) walked me through my panic and worst-case-scenario-thinking and reminded me that Maggie, in contrast to her mom, won’t consider herself diminished, as long as the pain is managed. They also gave practical suggestions, like getting ramps, and vitamin supplements. Best of all, they reminded me that being up here was a good decision, this experience notwithstanding.

Thank God too for a nurse who works with me who gave me the name of two women up here who practice Reikki and Acupuncture on pets. I tell you, this place never ceases to amaze me. Women who offer alternative health to pets in Yellowknife? Who would have guessed?

Now never in a thousand years would I — I who only reluctantly dress my dogs and only because it is -30 here in winter — never in a thousand years would I have expected myself to shell out money for alternative health practices on a dog. But anyone with pets or kids will know that something primal happens when a dependent creature needs you: You discover parts of yourself you didn’t know existed. Parts of you that will consider any option that holds possibility for recovery. Including Reikki and Acupuncture.

Thank God too for my ING savings account specifically for Dog Emergencies. It covered my vet visit and will cover initial sessions for the alternative therapies.

I’ll keep you posted. If any readers have used Reikki or Acupuncture on your pets, I’d sure appreciate hearing about it.

ps: many, many thanks to those of you who left comments on my facebook page. It really helped me not feel so alone.

But

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Citizens Bank of Canada first caught my eye upon its grand entrance, 12 years ago.  Their tv and bus stop ads promised Canadians a different kind of bank – one with an ethical policy, and one committed to the planet and to communities.   Plus, it was online.  This appealed to me enormously.

I applied for an account straight away, and got rejected:   fresh out of university, I didn’t have the credit history they wanted.

Eight years later, I tried again:  I wanted to open my business account with them.  This time, I had the credit history, but they were ceasing to open business accounts.

As fate would have it, I got into Citizens Bank by the back door.   Two years into my money-coaching business, I had stumbled across an advert for a part-time banking position with a credit union.   Extended benefits and some side income were a welcome supplement to my business.    I applied through the agency, and unbeknownst to me, the job was with CB.

I got the job, and finally I had a bank account where I’d wanted one all these years.  As an employee I can only describe myself as falling in love with this decent, underdog bank.  My passion was fueled further by the many amazing people who banked with us –  people whose green lifestyles were featured in national magazines, world class authors, professionals who devoted part of their year to development work overseas, progressive politicians, and above all,  the many, many Canadians who, like me, simply wanted to live a typical Canadian life in the most environmentally and socially sensitive way that they could.  I spoke to people in Iqaluit, in St. John’s, in Ottawa, in High Prairie, in Whitehorse, in Regina, (in Quebec to people upset we couldn’t open accounts for them!), in Lethbridge, in Yellowknife —  If any of you are reading this –  thanks so much for having joined me in the Big, Worthwhile Idea that was Citizens Bank.

Frankly, I’m still baffled that Citizens Bank didn’t gather at least a million members.   High interest savings, low or no fee chequing, and the profits went back to the community instead of to shareholders around the world – surely an easy choice.

But it didn’t.

So, I asked if I could try my hand at getting the word out.   The CEO, to whom I’m forever indebted for this, gave me six months to go for it, even saying OK to a job title of  “Bank Evangelist” – I wasn’t in it to “market” to anyone, just to spread the word!

Just as I was pulling some ideas together, the financial sector went wonky.   And our parent company, Vancity (some of whose staff never did “get” Citizens Bank) started to look hard at which of its subsidiaries were successful, and which ones not so much.  Last October most of CB’s staff were laid off.  Growth and evangelism were out of the question.   I left the bank.

The axe finally fell last week.  The accounts have been sold to TD Canada Trust (if it had to be to a bank, I’m glad it’s them, at least).

Grieving a bank seems nuts.   But I do.  I grieve the loss of Citizens Bank in Canada –  both for what it was, and what it could have been.  For me, Canada is diminished without this progressive little underdog bank.  I know Big Worthwhile Ideas come and they go, and I’m glad at least for the four years in which I could feel really good about where I banked.  But still.

A heartfelt shoutout to those who were there before me, and there with me, giving CB its best shot – esp. Jody A., Jane H., Kathy O., Madleine R., Lynn S., Lorelei M., Heidi F., Lacey H., Ben & Robin, Dean H …. the list goes on!

And on a pragmatic note – any recommendations on where to move my banking?  I’m already with ING for my savings (another long-time fave of mine) and I’m thinking of PC for my online checking.  Other ideas?  (bearing in mind I’m up in Yellowknife – no credit unions up here).

Well now, this is an interesting development.  Visa Canada is partnering with a very savvy company in the States called Borderlinx. It provides Canadians with a US shipping address, so that we can order at any online store in the States and ship it to the Borderlinx address.  Borderlinx will then ship it up to us in Canada.

Living in Yellowknife, this holds very promising possibilities!  In fact, it holds possibilities for anyone without easy access to the likes of Banana Republic (my clothing store of choice),  Restoration Hardware, Zappos shoes and a whole lot of other shops.  These are just two of the stores which only ship to US addresses via online shopping.

If it wasn’t for Visa’s involvement I would have assumed this was a fly-by-night operation – I pay for the goods, they collect them, and resell them or something.  So I contacted Visa’s eCommerce rep and got the following responses from Stephanie Wallat:

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Q:  Does VISA have any estimate of how many Canadian online shoppers want to purchase from US online vendors, but can’t because the vendor doesn’t ship to Canada?  (ie. how big of a problem is borderlinx solving for us)?

According to research by Burak Jacobs on on behalf of Visa in October 2008, the main barrier to shopping at US sites is “Sites that do not ship to Canada” -(38%) . The next reason was shipping costs at 25%.

The same research showed that 62% of respondents indicated they are shopping at US sites – what we don’t know, however, is how many more would, if the sites they targeted would ship to Canada.

With that many shoppers facing the barrier of shipping, this gap presented an opportunity for Visa to provide more value to its cardholders by offering a solution like Borderlinx .

Q: If I had discovered Borderlinx on my own, my guard would be up.  I’ve always assumed there was Some Reason the US Vendor didn’t ship, other than their inconvenience, such as international trade agreements/tariffs etc.   The fact that VISA is partnering gives Borderlinx credibility to me – enough so that I’ll personally try using it if the price/exchange rate is favourable enough to compensate for the shipping/taxes etc.  Can VISA confirm that US online vendors don’t ship to Canada purely for their own logistical reasons, rather than because doing so violates anything per above?

We can’t speak on behalf of retailers, but from what we understand in talking to US retailers, it is more a case of logistics than compliance (although in some cases,  it may be that the merchant’s goods are not accepted in Canada   – the Borderlinx website provides some examples of prohibited goods).

Shipping outside of the US can involve considerable effort, especially for the smaller retailers. To be successful, retailers need to understand the new market, have the internal resources and organizational structure to support cross border, be able to handle the fulfillment/logistics, know the government/regulatory/legal requirements of each market, etc.

Visa is working with third parties like Borderlinx to fill the cross border gap and enable its cardholders to shop anywhere in the world.

Q: Do Visa guarantees about damages of goods purchased apply to items that go through Borderlinx?  (I’m actually unclear about those guarantees, but I think VISA replaces items that break or get damaged, if purchased by visa?)

In general, if a Visa cardholder makes an online purchase that arrives damaged, the first step is to contact the merchant.  The Visa E-promise acts as another avenue for dispute resolution should attempts to deal directly with the merchant fail.

Borderlinx inspects packages and will alert a customer if the package is damaged (details below).
Carriers selected by Borderlinx insure deliveries  against damage up to $100. Borderlinx is working to provide its customers with additional coverage, and will be able to provide more information about that soon.

From the Borderlinx site:
If your goods are damaged when they are received by Borderlinx, the email advising you of a new delivery to your Borderlinx address will explain that goods were received damaged and – as far as possible – describe the damage. You should then contact the retailer directly to arrange an exchange/refund and let us know what you wish to do through the Customer Service page.

If you see a ‘Damaged’ icon against your delivery, you will not be able to have it shipped (ensuring that you don’t choose to receive damaged goods inadvertently). If you still want to receive your goods, please contact Borderlinx Customer Service so that we can arrange shipment.”

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This money coach plans to test this out in the fall, and I’ll let you know how it goes.  It will take some careful calculations, factoring in the exchange rate, the tarrifs, and the shop prices but I’m really pleased to have at least the option available to me.

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