Opening Notes

Opening Notes

Funny about money

BARBARA WICKENS February 24 1997
Opening Notes

Opening Notes

Funny about money

BARBARA WICKENS February 24 1997

Opening Notes

Funny about money

BARBARA WICKENS

It is a David and Goliath story for the 1990s. For the past three years, Richmond Savings—a credit union with 13 branches in the Vancouver area—has taken on Canada’s big banks in popular, tongue-in-cheek print and radio advertisements. The latest round again focuses on a fictional financial institution called Humungous Bank, a fatcat bureaucracy with

no regard for its customers. In one print ad,

Humungous Bank’s tennis-playing CEO crows:

“Thanks to my bank all my retirement dreams came true.” Less prominently featured in each ad is the Richmond Savings slogan: “We’re not a bank. We’re better.”

TECHNOLOGY WATCH

Thanks to my bank all my retirement dreams came true

HUMUNGOUS BANK’

four monrri, our mo,^y

While the award-winning ads again have some British Columbians chuckling, the banks are clearly not amused.

“Bank employees are being hurt who are conscientious, hardworking and dedicated to serving their customers,” says Margaret Eckenfelder, B.C. and Alberta director for the Canadian Bankers’ Association. Two years ago, thenassociation president Helen Sinclair asked

We built this bank one service charge at a time.

avail. Little wonder. According to Richmond Savings spokeswoman Rachael MacKenzie, membership has increased by 45 per cent since the campaign began in late 1993. Assets under administration, meanwhile, have soared from $1.2 billion to $2.4 billion. And many Richmond Savings employees think the fact that the Big Six banks posted

Richmond Savings to stop the ads—to no

unprecedented profits of $6.3 billion in 1996 will only add fuel to the fire. “Our campaign has been successful because it is something people can relate to,” says Doug Billingsley, vice-president of financial services at Richmond Savings. “Banks are not exactly held in the highest esteem these days.”

Keener on a Canada watch

Washington has become the improbable venue for a nasty little dispute involving officials of the Canadian and Quebec governments. At the centre of the spat is Keith Keener, 48, a mid-level analyst with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency who is suing his own government for violating his constitutional rights by barring him from taking part in, of all things, an academic con-

ference on Quebec. Canadian officials, it seems, had complained to Keener’s bosses that the analyst is too sympathetic to the idea of Quebec independence. But there’s more to the furor. In a court deposition, Keener claims he was approached by a Canadian military intelligence officer who tried to pry from him information about the activities of Marc Boucher, Quebec’s senior representative in

Washington. “It is against American law for a foreign intelligence officer to gather intelligence on American soil, including the gathering of personal information on a fellow foreign national,” Keener said. Canadian Embassy officials confirmed they had voiced concern over Keener’s view that Quebec independence is only a matter of time. A judge was scheduled to hear Keener’s case on Feb. 19—in time for him to attend the conference if he wins.

Cell's distractions

When Dr. Donald Redelmeier telephoned a patient in his car several years ago, the conversation ended abruptly after the patient said he could not talk any longer because he had just been in a collision. Although no one was injured in the fender-bender, Redelmeier says the incident made him wonder, as many others have since cellular phones became widely popular in the late 1980s, whether talking on the phone while driving increases the risk of having an accident. As a scientist— Redelmeier is director of clinical epidemiology at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Science Centre—he was in a position to find out. Last week, Redelmeier and fellow researcher Robert Tibshirani published the results of their 14-month study, funded by the Ontario ministries of health and transportation, in the New England Journal of Medicine. Their findings? The risk of a collision when using a cellular telephone was four times as high as that among the same drivers when they were not using their cell phones. “This relative risk,” the researchers noted, “is similar to the hazard associated with driving with a blood alcohol level at the legal limit” Roger Poirier, president of the Ottawabased Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, says members of the industry co-operated with the study by providing billing records and helping with

methodology. “It’s an excellent study, although we’d like to raise some questions about some of the finer points,” he added In particular, Poirier said he was surprised by the finding that phones that allowed the hands to be free did not appear to be safer than handheld ones. “If that data is true, the simple act of having a con versation with a passenger could also be a hazard,” he said. Redelmeier, too, was sur prised by the finding. And while the study did not address that particular issue, he said the two types of conversations are dif ferent for any number of possible reasons “A passenger is not just a distraction, but can be a real help,” he explains. “They car be sensitive to roadway conditions.”

Protests, '90s-style

Angry over expected tuition fee increases, students at the University of Toronto ignited a series of Ontario protests when they set up camp at the office of president Robert Prichard last week. Their actions prompted students at York University and the University of Guelph to follow suit. Meanwhile, students at Ryerson Polytechnic University gave president Claude Lajeunesse the cold shoulder by delivering 30 blocks of ice weighing 400 lb. to his office. ‘This is a message to Claude to freeze tuition now,” said Victoria Bowman, president of the Ryerson Students’ Administrative Council.

The protests follow an Ontario government decision to allow universities to raise tuition fees bylO per cent for the academic year beginning in the fall. In the past two years, tuition fees have risen by 30 per cent at Ontario universities, putting them at around the national average. The hike would put the maximum full-time undergraduate tuition at $3,229, up from the current $2,935.

The presidents of Toronto and York universities indicated that, because of grant reductions, they still intend to recommend the tuition increases to their governing councils (administrators at Guelph and Ryerson have yet to decide whether to pursue an increase). Despite the protests, the universities’ 10-percent solution seems certain to become Ontario students’ 10-per-cent headache.

No Moonies there

*The Washington Times, the U.S. capital’s I No. 2 paper, has had an image problem ever since it was founded in 1982. It is owned by the Unification Church of Rev. Sun Myung Moon, though its pages do not reflect any obvious religious influence from the controversial church. Inside the newsroom, however, it is a different matter. About a dozen of the roughly 100 editorial staffers are church members, and employees who do not belong to the group have found an unusual way of referring to them. It is considered impolite, not to mention impolitic, to use the pejorative term Moonies—so some staffers privately refer to them as “Canadians.” No one knows why Canadians was adopted as a code word, but one employee says it’s a matter )f being respectful. “After all,” he adds, “they sign our paycheques.”