Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Regulating the Predatory Lenders

Ward Three Councillor Matthew Councillor Green (pictured to the right) has a motion coming to Hamilton City Council on Wednesday September 9th.  The motion is requesting authority from the Province for the City of Hamilton to limit the number and regulate the locations of payday loan cheque cashing outlets.

Many other municipalities in Canada and the United States have implemented tighter restrictions on payday loan companies. In Winnipeg, for example, payday lenders must be a minimum of 1,000 feet apart. Another municipality, the town of Esquimalt, has increased its business license fee from $100 to $2,000. ( About 200 U.S municipalities are regulating these predators.

Last month, Global reported that cities in Alberta were banding together to fight against the 600% interest rates allowed by law in that province. (

They'll put payday loan companies out of business, argues lobbyist Stan Keyes.

While many would like these guys put out of business altogether, alternatives are needed because the major banks have abandoned low-income communities and earners.  In Sheffield England, Council has come up with an alternative by offering municipal loans to residents.

I've argued that postal banking could be an alternative that would provide access to financial services for all Canadians.  HTTP://WWW.HAMILTONJUSTICE.CA/BLOG/?POST=PAYDAY+LENDERS+CONTINUE+TO+OUTRAGE+US&ID=303)

In the meantime, I commend Hamilton's Councillor Green for his initiative.

Here is his motion:

WHEREAS the Province of Ontario’s Ministry of Consumer Services is responsible for the Consumer Protection Act and the Payday Loans Act which regulates and licenses money lending businesses;

WHEREAS the Province of Ontario regulates the interest rates of money lending businesses while Municipalities have the authority to regulate and license businesses to protect consumers if this is not already done by the Province;

WHEREAS the use and expansion of payday loan and cheque cashing outlets in Hamilton neighbourhoods is a significant consumer protection issue identified by the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction and neighbourhood and community groups; and

WHEREAS it is important that customers of payday loan and cheque outlets have a complete understanding of the financial services being offered.


(a) That the Mayor be authorized to forward correspondence to the Province of Ontario, to the attention of the Minister of Consumer Services, requesting that the protections afforded by the Payday Loans Act be strengthened and that Municipalities be authorized to limit the number and regulate the locations of payday loan and cheque cashing outlets;

(b) That Staff be directed to research the feasibility of licensing payday loan and cheque cashing outlets to assist in consumer protection by requiring the businesses to post their rates, show comparative and annualized rates and information regarding debt counselling.

(c) That staff analyze and map pay day loan and cheque cashing outlets in Hamilton and report back to Council on recommendations for alternative accessible financial services for Hamilton residents.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Gentrification Becoming a Problem for Hamilton Tenants

(An earlier version of this story appeared on

More than 200 central Hamilton residents rallied in McLaren Park last Wednesday..

Amidst chants and drum beats, tenants and housing advocates were putting out a message to all three levels of government the signs captured the feelings of those in attendance.

“Housing is a Right”

“Canada Needs a National Housing Strategy”

“We are the Faces of Affordable Housing”

The mainstream media was present.  Dan Nolan from the Hamilton Spectator reported on the evening event in the July 30th edition of his paper.

Speakers called on all three levels of government to take action. Demands included

• That the City of Hamilton immediately take measures to mitigate the negative impacts of gentrification. The city’s current planning and policy documents have failed to take into account the very real impacts of gentrification on low cost rental housing.

•  That Ontario’s Long Term Affordable Housing Strategy (LTAHS), which is currently under review, include measures to protect affordable housing so that units like ours will not be lost.

•  That the federal government develop a national housing strategy. The emphasis should be on maintaining and creating and affordable rental housing that is safe, accessible and in a state of good repair.

Gentrification is a growing concern in the City the Clinic’s Maria Antelo told CBC Hamilton.
“Right now, what tenants want is whatever is available to keep (rent) the way it is and prices shouldn't going up because our city is becoming a bit trendy.  At the same time there has to be a balance. Tenants understand that we do want beautification in our city, we do want investment in our city but we want politicians, developers to understand housing is a basic need, it's not a luxury."             

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Harry Leslie Smith in London (ON) Next Week

Recently I wrote a bit of a story about Harry Leslie Smith and specifically about his book Harry’s Last Stand.

A major theme of the book and Harry Smith’s advocacy efforts is to save the National Health Service (NHS).

On Twitter (@Harryslaststand) and in his book Harry characterized the big political battle in the U.K. as being fought to save the NHS. I must say I knew little of the National Health Service when I read the book.

Certainly those with closer ties to the U.K. will have views and knowledge on it.  I’m going to come back to lessons from the U. K. election another day.  Today I’ll like to talk about Harry’s Canadian tour.

He is in the midst of it now.  The last stop is next Tuesday (July 21) in London. It is at the

Museum London, Lecture Theatre
421 Ridout St N

Smith will be addressing what is a stake in our upcoming federal election.

A discussion will follow with a panel of progressive activists including Abe Oudshoorn (housing activist and nursing professor at Western University), Jonathan Sas (Director of Research at the Broadbent Institute),  and Kaylie Tiessen (economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Ontario).

The Broadbent Institute is running the tour.  You can find out more at

Monday, July 06, 2015

Street Soccer Championships in Hamilton This Month

This story orignally appeared in North End Breezes, the community newsletter of Hamilton's North End.

A unique event is coming to Hamilton this month.
Street Soccer Canada will be running the National Homeless Championship. The games will be played in Gore Park on Saturday July 18th and Sunday the 19th.  Teams from Comox, Kelowna, Calgary, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Hamilton and other cities are expected.
Players from this competition will be selected for the Homeless World Cup. 

That event will be held in Amsterdam this September.

In 2003, Mel Young, a Scotsman, and Harald Schmied, an Austrian, were attending a conference dealing with the future of street newspapers.  They came up with the idea of a Homeless World Cup. 

It is a different game than the traditional soccer (football) you’ll see at the Pan Am Games.

It is played four players a side on 16 metre x 22 metre court.  The game lasts 14 minutes (two seven minute halves.) A three-on-two rule, intended to promote scoring, has evolved so that only two players are allowed in their own defensive end.

To be eligible, players must have been homeless in the past year (in accordance with the national definition of homelessness,) make their living as street paper vendor, be Asylum seekers or in drug or alcohol rehabilitation (and also have been homeless.)

Changing Attitudes

The Homeless World Cup is more than a competition. It is designed to challenge societal attitudes towards homeless people.

In that context it is worth reflecting on the situation in Hamilton.

Here, over 3,100 individuals experienced homelessness – staying at some point in the past year in one of the City’s emergency shelters.

Hamilton is part of a national movement of communities led by the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness. The movement is mobilizing people to house 20,000 of Canada’s most vulnerable people by July 1, 2018.  As part of that program, individual and families were interviewed this April. Four hundred and fifty four (454) individuals were canvassed by volunteers in Hamilton’s downtown streets, shelters and agencies.

Here are just a few facts from the survey that may surprise you.

• Two thirds of those interviewed had experienced homelessness for six months or longer.

• Seven percent of those surveyed had served in the Canadian Armed Forces.

• 266 of the individuals surveyed had visited hospital emergency rooms a total of 994 times in the previous 6 months.

Much work has to be done to solve our housing crisis.  Unlike other nations, Canada doesn’t have a national housing strategy.  Perhaps, we will hear about housing and homelessness during this fall’s federal election campaign.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Reports on the Transit Users Forum

I made it out to the Burlington Transit Users Forum on the last Saturday in March.

It was a great morning with an excellent turnout.

Although the City’s commitment to public transit has not improved over the years Burlington for Accessible and Sustainable Transit (BFAST) has made a lot of progress in organizing people so they can articulate their concerns and their positive feedback as well.

The Burlington Post published a story that I wrote on the Forum that you can find here.

The Burlington Gazette provided great coverage as well.

Denis Gibbons from the Bay Are Observer was in attendance too.   I’d expect to see something in his paper in the next while.

Hopefully, this interest from media will help prod decision makers into putting appropriate resources into public transit in Burlington and all the GTA and Hamilton for that matter.
Paul Benson and Doug Brown facilitate a group at the Transit Users Forum.