Panhandlers small fry next to big banks

They charge ridiculous fees for every breath of air you consume in their presence.

Panhandlers small fry next to big banks

Imagine my surprise when I arrived at my local CIBC branch to discover they have been inconvenienced by panhandlers.

There is along the side of the tidy brick building a professional metal sign expertly attached with the bank logo and the command “No Panhandling”.

The tiny piece of publicly supplied real estate a soft-spoken gentleman had occupied in the hope of accumulating a very few dollars was empty.

I wondered where he had gone.

I am sadly not amazed that the bank — one of six in our land which monopolises our finances and finds numerous ways to profit from our need to manage our paycheques, bills and pensions — can be so tone deaf at this time.

As the big banks have their hands in all our pockets regularly, I would have thought they might have a more generous attitude towards panhandling. One thing I am sure of — even in my most munificent moments, the bank, which does not have to wait for my bigheartedness, has way more of my money than the guy with the upturned ball cap.

They charge ridiculous fees for every breath of air you consume in their presence. Unless you are a senior, in which case they will have already been turning you upside down for decades. In Canada you will pay $13 a month on average, or nearly $160 a year just to keep your dwindling rolling total in their vaults and obligating them to hit the odd keystroke. Then there are the costs for taking out your own bloody hard-earned cash from another bank’s ATM, which can hit $3 per transaction and NSF fees (on bounced cheques) are now $48 at major banks. Just sayin’ — in the U.K. most ATM transactions at another bank are free.

Exorbitant credit card rates should more than satisfy them, but step out of line and miss the deadline for payment — the interest almost doubles on the month’s total. Gotcha!

And I was interested (as in disgusted) to learn, Canada’s banks received $114 billion in cash and loan support from both the U.S. and Canadian governments during the 2008-2010 financial crisis. Despite all we are told about the stability of our banking system in Canada at some point during that crisis, three of Canada’s banks — CIBC, BMO, and Scotiabank — were completely under water, with government support exceeding the market value of the bank. I guess we ought to just own those things.

Indeed — CIBC reported its first quarter profit this year at $1.18 billion, tearfully missing expectations according to financial reports that anticipated a larger profit for the period.

Canadian banks pay the lowest tax rates in the G7 — 10.5 per cent in 2015, about a third the rate for all non-financial firms in the country. And as for us — 10.5 per cent on our incomes sounds pretty sweet.

Despite the massive profits, much of which originate from the usurious interest charges on credit cards, fees collected, poor returns on savings, government subsidy and extremely low tax rates that these characters enjoy, a teller in their employ — you know the folks who do all the work and are the people who look after ordinary customers — earn on average about $16 an hour, which is miserable to say the least.

All in all, the peaceful fellow on the public sidewalk at the corner of the bank building seems a bargain to me. I suppose it also occurred to me that the carnivorous agenda of our corporate class and their vigorous tax avoidance has a role to play in the fact that he is there asking for small change at all.

And as for the panhandlers, they could definitely learn a few things from the scoundrels on the boards of our big six.

Eden Haythornthwaite


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