Second Opinion

John Dorn is a retired tech entrepreneur who resides in Summerland.

The year-over-year inflation rate in B.C. is 6.7%, a 31-year high. Most of us are focused on the rising cost of food and gasoline. Housing costs are unbelievable.

What we seemed to have forgotten are the various promises the senior levels of government have made in the past to rein in everyday costs affecting us all. The power of oligopolies is the cause of most of our high cost of living.

Banking fees and the six big banks

When I was a child with a paper route, my parents encouraged me to start a bank account. Back then, one could put one’s meagre earnings in a savings account, and even my local CIBC would reward me with a few pennies in interest. Now one has to have $5,000 in your account to avoid paying the bank for the privilege of holding your money. I cannot remember whether it was the Liberals or Conservatives who promised to harness bank charges after the big banks started posting billion-dollar profits. Nothing has happened.

Gasoline

Canada has enough oil and gas to be thought of as an “energy superpower,” according to former prime minister Stephen Harper. We produce more fuels than we consume. In a true free market economy, that should result in supply exceeding demand and low prices. The oil industry has tied the price of crude to the world market, which is easily influenced by events such as the illegal invasion of Ukraine.

If Canada was truly “self-sufficient” in fossil fuels, our costs should be independent of world events. Unfortunately, Canada has done nothing to protect our energy sector. Over 70% of oilsands production is foreign owned. Rather than refining our oil in Alberta, the foreign-owned companies ship it to their own refineries out of country. The National Energy Policy of the early 1980s is not looking so bad right now.

A recent B.C. study (before the current fuel cost increases), found there was a 13 cent per litre gap between fair pricing and what we were charged. Good to know, but nothing was done.

Cable TV

Remember the promise to force the cable TV providers to unbundle their services and allow users to create their own bundles. Did you try to do that? The cost of singly adding your favourite stations resulted in no advantage. Just five companies (soon to be four if Shaw and Rogers combine) control over 10 million households.

Credit card fees

My Visa bill has an interest rate of 19.99%. If I pay the minimum balance each month it will take me 17 years and four months to pay it off. The outrageous rate is justified by Visa because they must cover losses by fraud and delinquent card holders.

Well Visa and MasterCard, stop lending money to delinquents, and start using your technical skills to lessen fraud. For the vast majority of card holders who pay off their monthly balances, but are occasionally late or need credit for a short period, there should be a reasonable fee. (Maybe close to the rate the bank gives me on my savings account).

Visa and MasterCard dominate this industry with American Express a distant third. If you are a small business, there is little opportunity of avoiding processing fees generally in the 2-2.9% range. Good business with little risk.

Pay-day loan companies

A government of Canada website says the cost of a loan from these sharks may be equivalent to an interest rate of 500%. This one is easy — regulate the interest rate they charge, or better yet, just stop them.

It is time for governments to look after the consumer, rather than their corporate friends.

John Dorn is a retired tech entrepreneur who resides in Summerland.