Girl math versus my accountant boyfriend

While girl math is fun, it isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation.

Girl math is one of the funniest and most ridiculously relatable concepts I’ve encountered on social media recently. In case you haven’t heard of it, girl math is a mindset where women conceptualize money differently to justify their spending, however illogical these explanations may be.

Here are some examples of how it goes. Anything under $5 is basically free. If I pre-paid a membership card and use it now, it’s free. If I don’t buy something, I make money. Anything purchased with cash is free. If I use this $100 bag 20 times, it only costs $5 per wear, which is free. Basically, girl math gives us excuses to indulge in our retail therapy or buy that $8 Starbucks drink.

A revolutionary concept, I know. Now, here’s where things get complicated: I’m in a relationship with a future accountant, and he is bamboozled by girl math. 

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was browsing at Indigo when I spotted their weekend sales. I’d be losing money by not getting a book, right? My boyfriend—let’s call him The Accountant—didn’t have an issue with me buying books, but he was confused by how I was rationalizing it. I decided it was time: The Accountant needed a girl math initiation.

After listening intently, he concluded that girl math essentially trivializes expenses by putting more value on how the purchase makes you feel rather than what it does to your bank account. While that can be okay in some circumstances, the issue for him is the lack of mathematical logic. It’s possible that the girlies on social media are just messing with men, playing on the age-old stereotype that women are bad at math—a bit like when they say “Why don’t we just print more money?” to provoke them. But if taken too seriously, it might become a mindset we should worry about.

While I am an avid girl math practitioner, I must admit he has a point. I am lucky (in most cases) to be in a relationship with someone who is good at math and money, because school certainly didn’t teach me any money management skills or financial literacy. Both are crucial in this cutthroat world, yet they aren’t so common. I don’t like to admit that before The Accountant stormed into my life with his spreadsheets and numbers, I didn’t grasp what a Tax Free Savings Account , First Home Savings Account or Registered Retirement Savings Plan was.

My point is that girl math is all fun and games until we realize it isn’t. We also have the responsibility to consider the environmental impact of our girl math-induced consumption, not only the financial impact. It works as long as it’s reasonably done. My boyfriend and I agree that there’s nothing wrong with indulging in the things that make us happy sometimes, whether that looks like a pumpkin spice latte for you, yet another rom-com book for me, or a golf game for him. 

It’s important that money makes you happy, but to find that balance, we need to work with it, learn about it and plan it out. Make an aesthetic little budgeting spreadsheet or better yet, find yourself an Accountant (mine is spoken for, but he has friends).


What’s up with Instagram?

What are the impacts of Bill C-18 on social media platforms?

For us to make important financial decisions, we must first be informed. Recent events surrounding Bill C-18, the Online News Act, have ignited a fierce battle between tech giants and Canadian journalists.

This legislation aims to compensate Canadian news outlets for their invaluable content. Tech giants like Meta and Google have chosen to block Canadian news on their platforms in combat—which is the reason why you may have noticed that news content has disappeared from your Instagram feed.

The federal government is throwing their weight behind Bill C-18 and suspending advertizing on Facebook and Instagram altogether. This move is echoed by provincial and municipal governments, including Quebec Premier François Legault. Even big media corporations are taking a stand. 

The Online News Act, enacted by the federal government in June, requires tech platforms to negotiate with news organizations for financial remuneration for the news shared on their platforms. This can potentially bring in over $300 million annually for Canadian news organizations.

Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, is urging all provincial and municipal governments to follow the federal and Quebec governments in stopping advertizing on Facebook and Instagram in response to Meta’s threat. The Canadian Association of Journalists calls on Meta to reverse its decision, emphasizing the importance of access to accurate and quality information for a flourishing democracy. 

Recent data from an August 2023 study conducted by Talk Shop reveals that 51 percent of Canadians are concerned about the impact of Bill C-18. These worries highlight a growing unease about the future of dependable news in the digital era.

Even though Bill C-18 was meant to safeguard journalism against dwindling revenues, it has unintentionally pushed consumers to seek news from unaffected sources like newsletters, podcasts, independent news sites, and even X (formerly Twitter).

The union also calls on corporations responsible for a significant portion of the more than $4 billion in annual revenue that Facebook generates in Canada to support local news and Canadian content by halting all advertising through Meta and its subsidiaries. 

The world is closely watching how Canada tackles this issue. As tech giants square off with governments over their responsibilities in the digital era, Canada’s actions will set a precedent for other nations.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s plans to implement the Online News Act are taking shape, promising a potential resolution to the contentious issue. With public consultations, an independent auditor, and a mandatory bargaining process on the horizon, the organization is hoping to establish a fair compensation framework. 

Whether through negotiated agreements or regulatory changes, the outcome will shape the future of digital news in Canada.



Where’s my (fee levy) money? 

Following the vote in favor of increasing Concordia Student Services fee levy, a new oversight body will be established to manage the funds.

In the recent Concordia Student Union (CSU) general elections, students voted 54.9 per cent in favor of an increase to the Concordia Student Services (CSS) fee levy. This is the first time Concordia Student Services have requested a fee levy increase since 2009. The $0.85 per credit increase brings the total fee levy from $10.26 per credit to $11.11 per credit, an overall 8.3 per cent increase. The vote was decided on a 9.1 per cent student voter turnout. 

Following the fee levy increase, the CSU and Concordia Student Services are set to create a mandating and oversight body to create greater transparency over the use of student funds.

A number of different units make up CSS, including the Student Success Centre, Campus Wellness and Support Services (which include counseling and psychological services) and the Dean of Students Office. In their application for an increased fee levy, CSS cited a net decrease in enrolment at Concordia due to the decline in 18-24 year olds living in Quebec. Currently, CSS has a surplus budget due to higher levels of enrolment previously. Without the fee levy, they expect to operate with a $2,316,991 deficit by the 2024-2025 academic year.

CSS helps students access many services at no direct cost, including but not limited to doctors, counseling, career advice and tutoring. In the 2021-2022 academic year, counseling and psychological services provided 9,654 student appointments, including triage and counseling. A deficit would see CSS needing to cut services.

“There are so many services offered in student services. It’s such a wide variety and I think each one is really important in its own way,” said Catherine Starr-Prenovost, a fifth-year psychology student at Concordia who currently works as a welcome crew mentor with the Student Success Centre, and as a homeroom facilitator as part of the Dean of Students Office.

“I can’t think of any student service that doesn’t have a huge impact on students’ lives.”

While student services are impactful, the nature of how their funding is allocated can be quite vague. 

​​”Students don’t have a way where they can govern this money, $9 million every year from their fees. They don’t have a way of knowing how it gets allocated. They can’t oversee it as there isn’t even a budget publicly available on their website,” said Fawaz Halloum, the CSU’s general coordinator.

The total revenue for CSS this year was $10,672,927 with student fees fronting 90 per cent of their funding, not including the surplus. Other student-run fee levy groups are required to hold Annual General Meetings, where board members can discuss budgets. They keep auditor’s reports and other financials ready at any time. This is not currently the case for Concordia Student Services. 

“There’s a trend that students do not want to keep paying into university services where they have absolutely no control over their money or to oversee or hold them accountable,” said Halloum.

Following CSS’ initial application for funding, Halloum suggested that an oversight body be created.

“I told them that students would want to see a board, a council of sorts, where students will sit along with the service directors. They will fight the budgets, make decisions and bring in student concerns directly and have a bit of a forum between the shareholders and the executives, which is long overdue,” said Halloum.

Halloum believes that with more oversight, the quality of work done by CSS could be improved.

“If you just start breaking it down one by one, you can find a slew of things that you can improve on pre-existing services, maybe even add certain facilities or services,” he said.

In most units of student services, a majority of the budget is directed towards salaries and benefits. According to their 2021-22 yearly report, CSS employs 118 professional employees across their units, with 322 students employees. During that year, student jobs accounted for $1,253,000 of the annual operating and non-operating budgets. This represents 10.44 per cent of CSS’ total revenue in that year, despite the fact that student employees make up 73.18 per cent of the CSS’ total workforce.

According to Laura Mitchell, Concordia’s executive director of student experience, the new funding from students won’t necessarily mean new services. “It’s to keep everything going that we have at present,” she said. “So this wouldn’t be money that would bolster one particular area. It would be spread across everything that we currently do.”

According to their application, CSS predicts a five per cent increase in costs to maintain their services every year. The extra money will help combat this increase and maintain salaries for professional and student employees amid rising cost of living expenses. 

​​”It’s all equally important, like our student jobs are really important to us,” said Mitchell. “We love working with students and we love supporting them. So obviously, we would love to be able to give a fair and generous salary to our student employees as much as we possibly can,” she added.

Student employees like Starr-Prenovost have spoken highly of their experience with CSS. “It’s been an amazing experience,” she said. “I feel like I’m treated really well and very fairly.”

A new oversight body has the potential to improve transparency to students, so they can better understand how their funds are being allocated. 

“Both sides were very enthusiastic about this idea,” Mitchell said.

Currently, CSS does have a committee called Concordia Council on Student Life that is a parity committee made up of students and staff. Mitchell says the new advisory body could resemble it. 

“We need to set up those consistent meetings and have these discussions and I think that will be great. I think it’d be really illuminating for both sides. To learn more about each other, because obviously these collaborations are really important for us too.” 

Now that the fee levy increase has been approved, a memorandum of understanding will be presented to the CSU’s council in one year to create a body staffed and operating in the following academic year.

“We don’t want to go in alone, we want to be in partnership as much as possible,” said Mitchell.

Despite the risk of deficit and increasing costs, students are the only ones currently being asked to increase their contributions to student services. The university’s contribution to CSS makes up just 4.11 per cent, which would diminish with an increased fee levy. It’s not as though the university does not have money to support these services. According to Concordia’s annual financial reports, a number of executives saw salary increases this year with President Graham Carr receiving a 9.56 per cent pay raise.

But Mitchell said they are having discussions with the university to see what that contribution looks like. “I think that’s another very important component,” she said.

Starr-Prenovost also thinks it’s important for everyone, including the university, to contribute to maintaining these services and that the efforts of people like Mitchell see results.

“I do hope to see that it comes to an increase in funding from [the university] as well. Anybody that could offer funding to the Student Success Center in student services, I think it would be a great investment,” she said.

“I really do think that the services are so important. Essentially, I think that it should be a priority  for everybody to increase funding for student services in general.”


Excessive spending by Space Concordia

A history of excessive spending at Space Concordia

CORRECTION: The article in question was initially taken down for revision purposes relating to generalized language. Details to the alterations are found below.

How much does it cost to build a rocket? That is the question Concordia’s Engineering and Computer Science Association (ECA) has asked Space Concordia (SC), the student association responsible for mismanaged and unorganized financial practices. Official ECA documents and board meeting transcripts provided to The Concordian reveal a history of irresponsible spending by the organization dating back to the 2020-21 academic year.

SC remains the largest student association under ECA jurisdiction, and, as of the beginning of the 2022-23 academic year, has access to the most funds of any committee under the association via a combination of ECA-approved grants, internal transfers, and external sponsorship’s, according to the societies official ECA approved budget. Despite this fact, according to reports SC spending have exceeded their ECA budget in the past, resulting in the ECA being forced to provide SC with thousands of dollars of additional funds to pay off the personal debt incurred by SC members.

Exact figures remain impossible to calculate without the ECA’s financial budgetary statements from the last three years, in which the ECA has yet to file due to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

However, a senior member of SC rocketry division, who preferred to stay anonymous, estimates the cumulative costs of the personal debts they have accrued from SC projects over their tenure range into the hundreds of thousands.  

“In the past few years I spent like hundreds of thousands of dollars, and I’ve had to ask for reimbursements of hundreds of thousands of dollars,” they said.

While these price ranges seem high to the average person, the senior member says that these costs are relatively low compared to the operational budgets of most space agencies that are doing the same work, believing the price range is justified. 

“We’ve already broken multiple world records over the past four years on this project,” they said. “It’s going to be the first liquid rocket ever launched from Canadian soil. We’re working with the government to create legislation for rockets in Canada. We’ve created state-of-the-art technology. And because of that, we go through thousands of transactions a year and hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.”

In addition, SC was accused of violating several key ECA bylaws regulating the spending habits of student organization under their jurisdiction. These actions include opening a secondary bank account for SC use, separate from its official ECA-monitored bank account which is in violation of Section D.3.3. of the ECA’s bylaws, and failing to keep accurate and up-to-date documentation of their expenses in accordance to bylaws D.3.5 and D.3.6.

These transgressions culminated in SC being put on extended probation by the ECA’s Board of Directors on Aug. 24, 2021. SC was informed by the ECA that they must comply with several conditions relating to the organization’s financial practices or “face dissolution” of their association, in the follow up letter sent by the ECA. Further steps were taken by the ECA to investigate SC financial practices dating back to the 2018 academic year.

In the same letter dated to Oct. 27, 2021, the ECA confirmed that SC had complied with a majority of the demands of the probation period sufficient to continue their probation.

However, the ECA did note that the organization failed to cease “all activity during the time of [SC’s] probation” and had yet to hand over all expense receipts to the association. At the same time, an anonymous source within the ECA has confirmed that no amount of student funds associated with SC are unaccounted for. The anonymous source made sure to dispel rumors of financial malpractice.

In an email sent to The Concordian, ECA president Sierra Campbell confirmed that SC “successfully met the terms of the BOD [Board of Directors] to end their probation” as of Dec. 3, 2021. Campbell made sure to stress that the violations occurred during a previous mandate and that the current SC leadership have “worked extensively alongside the ECA executive to create clear understanding of internal payment procedures as well as communication to members of the club,” stated the email.

Despite these measures, a financial blacklist was established by the ECA in a board of directors meeting on Sunday, Aug. 21, 2022, to address the “Space Concordia Member Issue” the motivation read. The blacklist prevented individuals from having any of their expenses reimbursed through ECA funds.

  • The original Deck: “A history of excessive spending puts Space Concordia’s future into question,” was misleading, insinuating that Space Concordia’s future is still in jeopardy. As of Dec. 3, 2021. Space Concordia has passed the probation period.
  • A previous version of this story mentions that SC receives “the most funds out of any committee under the association (ECA).” The ECA provides the most funds annually to the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers).
  • A previous version of this story mentions that SC “consistently exceeded their ECA budget,” the word “consistently” was improperly used.
  • A previous version of this story mentions preamble of a quote from an anonymous member of SC stating that the member “estimates his personal debts accrued by SC project range into the hundreds of thousands.” This has been altered to “estimates the cumulative costs of the personal debts they have accrued from SC projects over their tenure.” This is validated by the following quote from the aforementioned member.

Girls Who Like Money: How I Beat My Shopping Addiction

My story of hitting rock bottom and making it out on top

Girls Who Like Money is a column written to help you feel less bad about your money habits, plus some advice on how to finance your expensive taste.

Let’s talk about depression. When people think of an extreme case, they automatically think of suicide, but the extremities of your symptoms can manifest in every area of your life. Think finances: Who’s paying the bills when you live alone and sleep for 16 hours a day?

Depression is something every person can be afflicted by. Even if you aren’t diagnosed, it’s not an overreaction to say, “I’m feeling depressed today.” Of course, it affects everyone differently. As a person with chronic depression, it makes me feel like life is hard. In truth, my life is easy. For me, it just takes a little more effort.

The difference between myself today and myself two years ago is that I now make a continued effort to stay out of depression. I closely monitor my actions, my reactions, and my mood. If I feel like I might be getting into a depression, I muster up all my strength to crawl out of it. Not saying it always works. But it’s better than what I did before.

Two years ago, if I felt myself getting depressed, I would relish in it. Actually, I wouldn’t “feel” myself getting depressed at all. I would ignore it. I would skip class, not turn in assignments, and show up late to work. When I lost my job, I had so little confidence that I couldn’t find a new one. I almost got kicked out of school. I could barely pay rent, never remembered to pay bills, ignored calls from collection agencies… That year I paid my tuition six months late.

On the outside, I appeared fine. I would joke and hang out with my friends, go out every night of the week, and consistently treat myself to whatever I wanted. 

It’s called instant gratification. It’s when a person ignores the reason why they feel bad, and just solves it right away with something really cool. This is the root of all addiction. Only problem is, it wears off after about 30 minutes. For me, that was shopping. One thing that’s great about Concordia is that a new pair of shoes is less than a minute’s walk away. Great for me, anyway.

At that time, after class, I would make myself feel better for showing up to the lecture 45 minutes late by treating myself to something nice.

It started out innocently enough. I just needed a new pair of mittens, since they keep my fingers warmer than gloves. $12. No big deal.

Later that week, it got colder. I needed a new coat, as mine was not quite warm or chic enough. And a scarf. And, ooh, this cute hat! $65. It’s okay, only a few dollars more than my wifi bill.

Next week, I decided I didn’t have any pants to wear (meaning I didn’t have enough so that I only had to do laundry every three weeks instead of two). So I bought a few new pairs of pants. While in the store I realized I was simply out of cute shirts, so I bought a few of those as well. $200, gone. Woah, half a month’s rent… But it’s okay, I’ll get a new job soon. (I didn’t.)

After pulling one too many times from my tuition-only savings account, I started not having enough money for rent. I was now spending up to $600 in one shopping trip, about once a month, wondering why I couldn’t pay for anything else. I still had no job, and no awareness that I was depressed. After ignoring yet another late rent payment, I decided my only option was to never enter a store again. Luckily, Canadian Amazon sucks.

I recovered soon enough. The next year, I quit smoking cold turkey. Soon after, I met my boyfriend of two years. If anything, what a relationship does is make you really see yourself. I started talking to a therapist and realized I was depressed.

Therapy taught me that I am the only one able to help myself. I speak to myself much more kindly now. I forgive myself for not doing the dishes for two days straight, and I get up and do them. I force myself to pay rent and to turn in my assignments on time, even when I suddenly have the urge to drop out or move across the country. I have not one job, but three. I signed up for auto-pay. I use a planner. I have money saved for the first time in five years. Everyday depression is there, but now I’m strong enough to fight it.

Feature graphic by Lily Cowper


Why banking sucks here

Why does Quebec make us choose a bank based on which one sucks the least?

Upon meeting a new friend, one might be asked their astrology sign, how many siblings they have, or what they do for a living. It helps us get a sense of who a person is. What might be most telling, for Quebecers, is to ask which bank they use.

The Big Five make up most of the Canadian market share, so chances are, your new friend banks with one of the following: Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD), Scotiabank, Bank of Montreal (BMO), or Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC).

Thanks to extensive mergers over the past few decades, these banks have become about as big as government institutions themselves. An international banking regulator called the Financial Stability Board determines which banks are global systemically important banks (referred to as G-SIBs, and domestically as D-SIBs). As of 2020, TD and RBC are still on that list, which also includes U.S. banks such as JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.

Lists like these are based on an economic theory that some banks become “too big to fail” (TBTF), when so much of the population relies on them to remain stable. G-SIBs and other banks the government decides, whether explicitly or implicitly, are TBTF, are regulated to “maintain additional capital buffers” and “discourage banks from becoming even more systemically important,” according to the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). They are also high-profile enough that in an economic recession, or even a forecast of a recession, the government becomes pressured to become their guarantor.

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems

Logically, it seems like if a big bank has so much money, it would be the safest place to be during a recession. Sometimes that’s true. The fact that our banks are so large and diversified made them some of the most stable banks in the world, as ranked by Global Finance Magazine in their annual stability report. But sometimes it makes it riskier.

Once big banks get TBTF status, they have virtually unlimited protection from the government. Given they are still businesses trying to make as much money as possible, they are prone to make riskier moves, leading to higher likelihood of more government bailouts.

Don’t like the fact that your tax dollars would be bailing out a company that rakes in a couple billion dollars each quarter? Maybe you do. It’s partially what makes our banks so stable.

Others can’t get down with it. Given the fact that our banks are very stable, most Canadians believe they aren’t in need of government assistance. Many journalistic efforts have been published, including pieces by the Financial Post and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Most of these pieces are merely estimations based on public funding, such as pension funds and individual welfare checks. Some have even cited CERB as an implicit government subsidy for people’s pandemic-related bank struggles.

Employee-led research from the Bank of Canada arguing against TBTF cites that along with increased market power, gaining TBTF status was the driving force behind major bank mergers and the formation of the oligopoly we know and love today. While at the G-SIB level, they are subject to global regulations putting caps on profits, they are more likely to receive implicit support when the economy struggles.

Like any good government organization, our big banks have their flaws. You might wait forever, or be helped pretty unhelpfully. You might wonder why your bank doesn’t give a hoot that you’re funding their business with literally all the money you have.

Bank mergers are a major reason why we pay way more for our banking privileges, compared to the United States. Down south, you can almost universally expect to bank for free, and earn a decent interest on your savings account. That’s due to their more fragmented system, which creates more competition between large and small banks, leading to lower rates. Our Big Five are the result of major mergers of medium-sized banks seeking more market power. They now dominate the Canadian market and charge us the fees to match.

Another downside to the oligopoly is that no matter what, money in your bank account is funding a company that can put money in whatever they choose, regardless of their clients’ politics. As CBC reported earlier this year, RBC is among the top five banks worldwide involved in fossil fuel financing, with over $160 billion lended out between 2016 and 2020. Reasons for not pulling out, if any, would be fear of disrupting the Canadian economy, which is heavily reliant on the fossil fuel industry, according to CBC.

As of November 2021, all Big Five will sign onto a new international agreement, the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), according to CBC. While the goals of this new agreement include prioritization of “green” investments and lowering emissions of bank clients, signatories of the plan need not to withdraw from ongoing funding projects in the fossil fuel sector. Climate activists have warned the public not to start celebrating until those withdrawals are made.

Finding My Bank Soulmate

Ever tried joining a new bank in Quebec? Maybe you’ve just been with the same one since you were 14, like I had. When I first moved to Canada four years ago, I just went to the one that was closest to me. After three years, I started noticing how much I detested it. Some people do all their banking online, but I’m more high-maintenance than that.

My bank never answered the phone, and when they did they would respond with long scripted responses. At the branch, they looked at me with disgust when I approached their counter, they held my checks for days on end. I didn’t feel wanted.

Since my broke beginnings while growing up in the States, I’ve held an account at a credit union, not a bank. If you’re a true Quebecer, you’ll know it as the “caisse-populaire,” associated with the Desjardins group. Credit union, caisse-populaire, potato, potate. Same thing? You could say so. I’ll share my American experience first.

Close your eyes. Imagine a world just like your own. Maybe a tad warmer. Imagine you call your bank and they pick up right away. Imagine they speak with you like a friend: They ask you about your day, and give you all the platonic intimacy you deserve. Imagine you hang up the phone feeling satisfied and reassured that your request has been diligently honoured.

Imagine your account is free, no matter how much is in it, and when you walk into a branch, at least three individuals await you with a smile, and even if they have filing to be done, you, a member, are their top priority. Open your eyes: that’s what a credit union feels like.

Upon making the decision to leave TD after three years — a bank I highly do not recommend — I looked endlessly for another bank with this level of devotion. Unfortunately, I don’t think it exists in Canada just yet.

When inquiring on what bank is best to turn to, most reddit users recommended Tangerine, one of the only online banks available in Quebec. Formerly known as ING Direct, it has since been acquired by Scotiabank, but still operates as a separate company. Due to the lack of in-person branches, it’s free for everyone, and has some of the best rates for high-interest savings accounts. It seemed like my only option. At the same time, if I did turn to Tangerine, I’d be going from unpleasant, in-person branch visits, to no branch visits at all. Is that what I really wanted?

I quickly realized that what I was looking for was not a bank, but a credit union, just like I had back home. The peak difference between a bank and a credit union is that a bank is for-profit, and a credit union is not-for-profit.

A credit union is like your local co-op grocery store. As a member, you are part owner and participant in the union, in turn taking advantage of low rates and high quality service. A bank is a business set out to make profit and satisfy shareholders —  the reason for usually much higher rates.

Did you ever notice that while a credit union has more of a “you’re one of us” attitude, a bank has more of a “you need us, we don’t need you” attitude? Maybe not. That’s because unlike every other Canadian province, in Quebec, Desjardins is basically just another one of the Big Five. Actually, if you considered it a bank, it would knock CIBC right out of the Big Five club.

Caisses Un-Populaires

Time for the tea you all came for. Let’s talk about credit unions in Quebec: a concept that has a history tied to the very beginning of credit unions in North America.

Desjardins is our one and only caisse-populaire in Quebec, founded in 1901 by a Mr. Alphonse Desjardins as the first credit union in North America. Just seven years later, Desjardins and a group of French-speaking immigrants opened the very first credit union in the United States, which is now home to well over 5,000 of them, as of 2021.

So why is Quebec left with only one? And why does Desjardins play along like they’re just another one of the Big Five?

If you search the term “caisse-populaire” in Wikipedia, you’d be redirected to the Desjardins Group, made up of numerous investment firms, real estate holdings, and brokerages. It’s also the proud owner of many Canadian expansions of U.S. insurance giants such as State Farm (since rebranded to Desjardins Insurance). Does any of that remind you of your friendly neighbourhood gardening collective?

During my search for a new financial soulmate, I actually found exactly what I was looking for. It was a credit union (duh), whom I called and was immediately connected to a friendly customer service woman. The conversation was refreshingly friendly and easy, like talking to an old friend. I felt strongly that this union was the place for me: a perfect match. The representative then explained that membership was not available in Quebec, due to some regulations. She encouraged me to call back in a year, though, to see if the law had changed. A law that possibly hadn’t changed since 1901?

Since I couldn’t find any answer for this online, or an alternative credit union in our province, I nearly gave up. Every article I found was talking about how cool and hip Desjardins was, so I decided to check it out for myself. Maybe I would make this my bank after all.

When I got there, I felt like I was back at TD. The computer was so slow, and after 5 minutes of dial-up style loading speed, I was told I couldn’t get an appointment for another four hours (even though I was the only one there). I knew there was an advisor upstairs holding her breath, because I heard her sneeze right before leaving.

I went back to my trusty sidekick, Google. I suddenly found myself reading words like “…the authority shall establish…” on the Quebec government’s open source website, and discovered nothing further.

It Really is Quebec’s Fault

I spoke with Professor Moshe Lander, a senior lecturer in the Economics Department at Concordia, who has at least 20 years of experience teaching on the subject.

As I quickly discovered, one thing Google can’t explain is the vast, black hole that is the relationship between Quebec’s history and its modern economic regulations. It might be something that goes right over the heads of Quebecers who have never lived anywhere else, and only be a problem for those of us who have migrated from other provinces or countries.

When we ask questions like, “We’re a part of Canada, so why don’t we get what everyone else has?” the answer almost always has something to do with our provincial government.

You see, the Big Five aren’t affected by Quebec laws. Banks are regulated by the federal government. Credit unions, on the other hand, are regulated provincially.

My first assumption was that there was a distinct law mentioning Desjardins as the only credit union allowed to operate in Quebec. In fact, the situation is purely circumstantial.

According to Professor Lander, after 120 years of operation, Desjardins has a monopoly over our province, making it hard for outsider credit unions to gain traction here. “It’s not worth it [for them],” he said.”Tack on all of the language requirements, the different legal system […] getting your foot into Quebec is almost impossible.”

It seems that the province’s unique legal system is what keeps a lot of that cool stuff out. “Just take a look at fast food restaurants,” Lander began. “Swiss Chalet doesn’t exist here. St. Hubert exists here, because the legal system is different. So, in terms of product liability, consumer protection, disclosure requirements… For a privately-held company it’s different.”

Professor Lander said these provincial differences also extend to the banking and financial sector. Credit unions such as Vancity in British Columbia, and motusbank in Ontario, can operate in any other Canadian province, since their legal and regulatory systems are similar, but not in Quebec.

One other reason that this problem might be specific to credit unions is the very fact that they are only as big as their clientbase. Lander said that both the non-Quebec credit unions and Desjardins would not seek to maximize their client-base all across Canada for the same reason. “Because [credit unions] are not a private company that’s looking to maximize shareholder value, [they] are ultimately owned by [their] customers,” he explained.

So, when the operator from the Ontarian credit union I spoke with before said, “if something changes in a year, call us back,” she probably wasn’t talking about a change in Quebec regulations. Most likely, she was talking about a change within their company that would drive them to begin doing business here.

Furthermore, it doesn’t help that Quebec is pretty much a ghost town compared to the United States. Our population is just a fraction of the size. That’s probably why Desjardins doesn’t offer the hottest rates or the hottest service ⏤ with their member numbers being just as low as a mid-size niche credit union in the United States, they can’t afford to offer Quebecers a better rate than any of the Big Five.

As for the lack of choices to overall banking methods in Canada, it’s actually a federal problem. Professor Lander attributes this to both population size and lack of regulations over mergers between banks, unlike the U.S. which regulates inter-state transactions. As for Canada, “Through mergers, [big banks] basically came to swallow up everybody underneath them, and left nothing behind. That sort of concentration hasn’t taken place in the U.S.,” he said.

“Even if you take the biggest banks in the U.S., [such as] Bank of America, they don’t add up to 95 per cent of the deposits or mortgages and loans. It’s a much more fragmented system,” he said. That also explains why Desjardins became a monopoly across the province, which was once home to many small, local credit unions.

As it turns out, you can assume that it’s all loosely attributed to the war between the French and the English that took place 350 years ago. That’s what makes us special. As Professor Lander noted, “It drives a huge amount of product law and business law and these oddities that just don’t exist elsewhere in North America.”

It seems things won’t change until the nicer credit unions take a leap of faith across provincial borders, or our government does a major ego-check. For now, we’ll have to choose between the bank that sucks the least, or keeping the cash under the mattress.



Visuals by Lily Cowper

Student Life

University Finance 101: budgeting tips that don’t involve slandering avocado toast

Financial Advice to help make the jump from Living At Home To University Life a little easier.

With the start of the fall semester and in-person lectures returning to Concordia, this week not only marks the first time that many freshmen and sophomore students will be on a university campus, but also the far more important experience of leaving home for the first time. When the initial excitement of beginning university wears off, being faced with the challenge of having to be financially independent can be quite intimidating for many students.

As a fourth-year student, I remember how difficult the change was from living at home to suddenly having to “fend for myself.” I, like many of my peers, found myself in a sink or swim situation.

Something I wish I’d done sooner was applying for as many bursaries, scholarships, and grants as I could, as early as I could. This is something I wish I did sooner. Scholarships and grants are fantastic ways to mitigate the financial burden of tuition and can also help build up an emergency fund.

As well, it may be worth your time to do some research into specific scholarships and grants that may apply to you. POC and members of the LGBTQ+ community experience financial instability at a higher rate than the national average. Many Non-Government Organizations and bursary funds provide specific scholarships to students that are a part of marginalized communities, such as the Black Canadian Scholarship Fund, the Jeremy Dias Scholarship, and the RBC Royal Bank Scholarship for Aboriginals.

Students who are registered with the Access Centre for Students with Disabilities are also eligible to receive numerous grants and scholarships from both government and private institutions, such as the RBC Capital Markets Canada Pathways Diversity Scholarship Program and the Canada Student Grant for Students with Permanent Disabilities.

First-year students should also be mindful of the transaction limit on their debit card. To stay within your transaction limit, use cash for day-to-day purchases and your credit card to finance larger expenses. While credit cards have no transaction limits, they do have a spending limit. Stay well below your maximum allowed and by paying your monthly balance on time no additional interest will accumulate on your credit. As well, the physiological impact of paying with cash causes a significant decrease in spending than paying with a card.

Another simple trick I recommend is uninstalling food delivery and ride apps from your phone. The added step of needing to reinstall these apps helped me to cut back on my spending and reduce my monthly credit card bill by almost 50 percent. Your billing information is saved to your account, so reinstalling these apps before a night out with friends or a date with your significant other is quick and easy.

Concordia itself has a number of great organizations dedicated to helping support students with their day-to-day financial expenses. Organizations like The People’s Potato vegan soup kitchen provide free lunches to all Concordia students every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday between 12:30 and 2 p.m at the Henry Hall building in room H-700.00.

Whenever you can, buy your textbooks from the Concordia Co-op Bookstore instead of the Concordia Book Stop. The Co-op Bookstore also provides members with a discount on every subsequent purchase for a single upfront charge of ten dollars. For students studying in the humanities or in the fine arts, this upfront charge can typically be earned back in the money saved on required readings for just a single semester.

While money doesn’t buy happiness, financial stability provides freedom and opportunity that will have a profound impact on your wellbeing. It defines the difference between choosing to work versus having to work a part-time job during the school year. It provides the ability to leave a toxic and/or abusive living environment without having to worry about debt.

Financial means can grant access to resources like therapy and medication which, sadly in our capitalist society, become far harder to access without. It’s the ability to have your avocado toast worry-free and eat it too.

Disclaimer: This is not professional financial advice. Please consult your financial advisor to associate the risks involved.

Feature photo by Catherine Reynolds


FEATURE: People, innovation, or bricks, mortar and art stacked in a corner?

Happening in and around the White Cube this week… digging into the world of art & finance at Concordia and beyond

“If culture is valuable, culture works should be valued the same way, not just verbally,” said Marc Lanctôt, curator and Musée d’Art Contemporain de Montréal (MAC) union delegate.

According to an article in The New York Times, “wealthy donors are generally happy to contribute to construction projects – often drawn by naming opportunities – they are far less excited about subsidizing unsexy operating expenses, like salaries and benefits.”

Public spreadsheets that document and protest unpaid internships and unfair wages in the industry currently include over 4,000 entries from museum professionals all over the world, including Montreal.

The MAC is among the six Montreal-based entries on the spreadsheet. There are two active unions at the MAC, one of which is for front-of-house staff and educators. The other is for professionals: conservators, curators, education tour managers and workshop leaders, registrar’s office, art transportation, collections management, communications and press relations, etc.

MAC Pros striking during their break. Photo by Cecilia Piga.

The employees at the MAC were under a common agreement (like a contract) which expired in 2015, although the conditions are still applicable today and provisions in the contract are still applied. However, there have been no financial changes, no pay increases since 2015 and certain provisions no longer pertain to the reality on the ground. Their bosses have no incentives to make any changes.

Their employers are keeping that money, spending it on renovations and increasing their own salaries. Simply put, Lanctôt suggests the museum should not “spend on what we can’t afford if we can’t pay our people right.” He added that John Zeppetelli, MAC Director and Chief Curator, is “acting like his hands are tied, that he isn’t really the director of the museum, the government is.”

This is a multi-tiered problem […] how we organize work and labour needs to be rethought,” said Lanctôt.

“We want salary increases comparable to those granted to our bosses over the past five years,” wrote @prosdumacmontreal on Instagram on Oct. 6. The affected workers have been actively protesting since Sept. 17, doing public interventions and striking on their breaks and during peak museum hours, such as the Janet Werner opening on Oct. 30.

“We have nine more strike days up our sleeve that will be deployed at strategic times,” said Lanctôt. “Everything that has to do with culture in Quebec and Canada is highly accountable to the state and public funding, very arcane. Issues are bogged down in complicated spreadsheets and legal labour language. We don’t want the public to lose track of what’s a stake; we have to stop gauging away at cultural workers. It’s the people that matter. Otherwise, it’s just bricks and mortar and art stacked in a corner.”

The Art + Museum Transparency group has stated that “many of the most vigilant and vocal activists in the current movement are those working front-of-house positions […] gallery security officers, education, retail and visitor services staff.” These labour activists are fighting the institution’s growth, urging cuts of unnecessary expenses and “fancy” renovations in favour of protection from unjust firing, basic healthcare insurance coverage, paid parental leave, and so on.

“Pas de pros, pas d’expos!”

“Museums remain extremely hierarchical, with power concentrated in the hands of a very few who dictate benefits, wages and workplace procedures out of step with the economic realities of our time,” reads the same statement by the Art + Museum Transparency group.

Museum staff are unionizing across the United States with the Marciano Art Foundation Union (MAF), and continue to prove the viability of the field, urging institutions to embrace Graduate and Undergraduate student internships instead of pushing them out, forcing them to consider otherwise.

At Concordia, the VAV Gallery has just released its 2019-20 Year Plan. It discloses their financial constraints by breaking down their budget and emphasizing the measures being taken to remedy the issue. The slow, accumulated deficit was not noticeable in last year’s financial report. Dropping by big chunks every year due to the gallery’s ambitious developments, they were forced to downsize from last year’s programming.

This year, the VAV Gallery will host smaller shows, showing larger bodies of work from three or four artists, working one on one with them to create a tailored exhibition plan. The exhibitions – now numbered and not titled in order to avoid lumping artists together with broad themes – will be more cohesive, focusing on overlaps between individual practices.

Alexia McKindsey, the VAV’s financial coordinator, knew the decision would come as a shock to Concordia Fine Arts students, but the reality is that if these drastic measures aren’t taken, the gallery won’t be able to operate next year.

We never wanted it to come to this,” said McKindsey. “This is the worst case scenario.”

Having cancelled their winter artist call-out, three out of four Fine Arts students contacted by The Concordian, who have chosen to remain anonymous, said they would consider opting out of the VAV’s fee levy should it increase from $0.85 to $1 per credit.

“The gallery has already selected its programming for the entire year – why am I paying for something that is not giving me the opportunity to show my work?,” said one student, an Art Education major.

“Especially when last year’s programming was excellent, I see no reason why a top level fine arts undergrad university can’t have a student gallery that can offer the space for students to exhibit their work, attend events and be engaged in the Montreal arts scene,” said another student. The Studio Arts major said this in regards to the $5.6 million donation to the faculty from the Peter N. Thomson Family Trust, received last spring. “It feels like things are happening up top and the students don’t have a say, like an extension of Cafe X closing.”

The faculty received this incredible donation, but where is it? In the big hole where the VA garden used to be?

Despite last year’s incident – the tragic death of art education student and sweet child of the universe, Ming Mei Ip – there are still no basic services in the building.

No one cares about the VA. We are the smallest faculty and the most neglected building on campus,” said McKinsdey. “We don’t know enough about where our fee-levies go and how we benefit from them as students.”

FASA, we love you, we know you’re doing your best, but like, the Art + Museum Transparency group stated, these institutions – universities, museums and galleries alike – remain powerful hierarchical structures out of touch with the social and economic realities they are surrounded by.

According to McKindsey, the donation isn’t reaching the VAV Gallery or any other student-run, fee-levy projects. Concordia has a weird system when it comes to money. For anyone who has ever received an honorarium or has had to be reimbursed by the university, this isn’t new information.

Unlike the gallery’s transparency, the money donated to the university and specific faculties isn’t being disclosed to students. Rumours around student organizations is that it’s a cyclical system, hinting to a new, “innovative” project unfolding towards the end of the year.

Funding opportunities for student projects

The Fine Arts Student Alliance (FASA) just released their Broke Student Handbook, which provides students with accessible and low-cost options for everything from art-making materials, funding opportunities, academic services and basic necessities.

Among these services are the Regroupement des Artistes en Arts Visuels (RAAV) and L’Artisan du Renouveau et de la Transformation Écologique (ARTÉ). RAAV is an association of artists that represent and defend the interests of Quebec artists. ARTÉ is an independent company mandated by the city of Montreal to manage the reuse centres.

Not many are aware of the numerous showcasing and funding opportunities available for student projects across the university. FASA Special Project Grants, the Concordia Council on Student Life (CCSL),  the Concordia University Small Grants Program (CUSGP), the Concordia University Alumni Association (CUAA), the Sustainability Action Fund and Concordia Student Union Special Project Funding are among the many programs that will encourage eligible student projects, new clubs, publications, events and more.

Showcasing platforms outside of the White Cube

Outside of student newspapers, Concordia is home to several publications. Some journals linked to various departments, like the InArte Journal, CUJAH and others offer free range to most students. Soliloquies, Yiara and l’Organe all offer a creative platform for writers and artists. Their difference lies in the language they are diffused in: l’Organe is in French, Yiara is bilingual and inter-university, and Soliloquies focuses on creative writing, poetry and prose, bringing together creative English-speaking students across the university.

A new addition to this list is Scribbles which, unlike Yiara and the InArte Journal which accept submissions from all departments within the Faculty of Fine Arts, will accept creative work from students across the university.

The magazine’s executive team doesn’t follow the typical publication masthead, similar to The Concordians editor/assistant structure. Instead, they have a president and various VPs and coordinators, characteristic of clubs within the John Molson School of Business (JMSB). That being said, the executive team is not restricted to JMSB students. Communications, behavioural neuroscience, software engineering and creative writing are among the team’s majors.

“In addition to our publications, we have the goal of informing students about the creative world by holding conferences with actual writers, journalists, artists and so on,” said Scribbles President Sara Shafiei, BComm Marketing.

The launch of the first publication took place on Oct. 30. Attendees paid $15, giving the magazine a head start.

“Guests were able to get their hands on a copy before anyone else and simply enjoy some food and music while celebrating with the team and getting to talk with other creative students,” said Shafiei. “We are brand new, don’t have many sponsors and are still growing as a committee. We received a small amount of funds from CSU which was barely enough to get our first edition printed. The event itself had costs, as hospitality also charged us. The tickets helped us fund the event. However, our magazine itself [is] free.”

Throughout the first weeks of November, Scribbles’s first issue will be placed around campus for students to pick up.

Interdepartmental and cross-faculty pollination is what makes our projects stronger, making voices louder, as students stand in solidarity as young creators and entrepreneurs.

Projects like Concordi’art – which claims to create a space for both fine arts and business students – really just focus on commercializing and capitalizing on pre-existing ideas. The group’s recent Bob Ross paint night at Reggies, which was sponsored by Concordia Stores, charged students $15 to paint along with a projection. They did not collaborate with the Department of Art Education, who would have been more than thrilled to assist. Concordi’art did not respond to The Concordian for comment.

The VAV Gallery is looking to collaborate with other departments and fee-levy groups for their winter programming. Among these are plans to coordinate a special exhibition with the Fine Arts Reading Room, the InArte Journal, CUCCR, Art Matters and more.

Clara Micheau, FASA Finance Coordinator and representative of the Faculty of Fine Arts for la Planète s’invite à l’Université (LPSU) at Concordia, posted on the Concordia Fine Arts Student Network Facebook page on Nov. 5, urging students to vote against online opt-outs in the upcoming CSU by-election (Nov. 12-14).

“Art Matters is not the only fee-levy group we are talking about here,” wrote Micheau. “People’s Potato is one, as is Queer Concordia, Cinema Politica, Food Coalition, Centre for Gender Advocacy, The Concordian and more. They all provide life-saving services to you or your friends or that student you don’t know but who has found their support group in them. They are everywhere, supporting our community.”

Fee-levy groups can offer superb opportunities to enhance careers and build reputable references, in any faculty. For more information and to encourage fee-levy groups, visit the Vote No Facebook Event.



Graphics by Chloë Lalonde (@ihooq2)

Concordia Student Union News

CSU cash flow drying up

Structural deficits draining union’s cash flow.


“At this projected rate, if nothing at all changesso if we stay exactly on budget target, and nothing is doneduring the summer, we will run out of money.”

This was Concordia Student Union (CSU) Finance Coordinator John Hutton’s prediction following the release of the union’s audited financial statements for the 2017-18 year. He said if the CSU continues down its current financial path, the union’s cash flow will dry up, meaning its expenditures will outweigh its revenues.

According to the report, the CSU’s net worth increased by more than $3,000 to about $13 million last year. However, this is largely due to a roughly $346,000 increase in the value of the Student Space, Accessible Education and Legal Contingency (SSAELC) fund, and the union has limited flexibility in how it spends this money. The SSAELC fund supports initiatives like the Woodnote Housing Co-operative.

The report shows many discrepancies between the CSU’s budget for 2017-18 and its actual balance for that fiscal year, which ended on May 31. While the budget for the year predicted a roughly $1,300 surplus for the clubs budget line for 2017-18, it ended the year with a more than $78,000 deficit. The operating budget line, which funds executive salaries, campaigns and legal expenses, among other things, reported a deficit of more than $205,000 instead of the roughly $88,000 surplus that was budgeted for.

Two of the union’s budget lines, advocacy and clubs, are in a structural deficit, meaning significant changes need to be made to the structure of their budgets to keep them from running deficits.

Hutton said these discrepancies were not caused entirely by poor budgeting: clubs were especially active and asked for more funding than usual in the previous year, but he could not say why. He said a discrepancy of nearly $20,000 between the budget and the financial reality of the Housing and Job Bank (HOJO) was the result of a grant from the Dean of Students Office that the union budgeted for but did not receive.

To correct this, Hutton suggested a combined 36 cent per-credit increase in the fee levies for operations, clubs and advocacy, which would be matched by a 36 per cent decrease in the SSEALC fund fee levy. This would provide the union with more cash while maintaining the same fees for students. Hutton said a one cent per-credit increase is roughly equal to $7,000-$7,600 per initiative, which translates to a budget increase of $250,000-$275,000 for a 36 cent fee levy.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin.


UPDATE: Following the publication of this article, university spokesperson Mary-Jo Barr reached out to the Concordian via email, saying that “We have discovered that the CSU’s financial statements contained some misinterpretation and incomplete information. There was no “clawback” in funding last year, rather it was a reclassification of some funds. Financial Services has since contacted the CSU and has been able to address the issue with them. We expect they will update their financial statements accordingly.” The article has been updated to reflect this new information. More details will be provided when they become available.

Student Life

A finance student with 46,000 Instagram followers

Makeup artist Mathusha Thurairajasingam created her own beauty social media account, BeautyByMathu

“The pros of being a full-time student and having an active social media account is that I’m capable of working on both my passions at once,” said Mathusha Thurairajasingam, a second-year Concordia finance student who is better known as BeautyByMathu to her more than 46,000 Instagram followers.

Surprisingly, Mathusha used to hate makeup. “I was more into sportive activities, such as basketball, badminton and volleyball,” she said with a laugh. However, her perspective on makeup changed when she started college. Since she could no longer attend the gym on a regular basis, she discovered her “fashion senses.”

In 2014, Mathusha’s two sisters encouraged her to create an Instagram page after she began applying full face makeup for fun. “At the John Molson School of Business, I took a marketing class which changed my perception of social media,” she said. “I learned all the key components to be successful as a brand.”

That marketing course encouraged Mathusha to set goals for her Instagram page, such as posting good content and spreading positivity online. This resulted in BeautyByMathu getting reposted by famous cosmetic brands, like Anastasia Beverly Hills, Smashbox Studios and NYX Cosmetics. Mathusha was also featured in online magazines, like Elle and Infleur.

Mathusha said her Sri Lankan-Canadian ethnicity is part of what makes BeautyByMathu unique. Photos courtesy of Mathusha Thurairajasingam.

“People and brands are interested to view my work, since there aren’t many beauty bloggers of my Sri Lankan-Canadian ethnicity,” she said. “I use this platform to not only teach about makeup, but to make people believe in themselves.”

Mathusha’s goal is to start her own makeup brand. It’s why she chose to study finance. “I will need to understand the basis of how to manage my budgets, costs and future plans,” she explained.

Though Concordia’s finance program provides Mathusha with the education she needs to reach her goal, taking four classes and running her Instagram page can be stressful at times.

“It can be overwhelming when you know that your followers want to see more posts from you, but you can’t post because of exams or projects,” she said. “During exams, I feel like I have the need to post for my followers, but at the same time, I have the need to pass my courses with good grades.”

In order to balance school and her makeup tutorials, Mathusha dedicates one day per week to filming and creating content. She also separates a full makeup look into three posts: an eye tutorial, a face tutorial and one photo of the final result.

“[The three posts] give focus to the audience,” Mathusha said. “I want them to know how to do and attempt the look.”

She also posts tutorials on her BeautyByMathu YouTube account, although she prefers Instagram. “I still have some experimenting to do [with YouTube] which I am planning on expanding this year,” Mathusha said.

Ashley Luthawan, also a second-year Concordia finance student and one of Mathusha’s good friends, said she believes Mathusha is great at balancing school and social media. “I’m so proud to see how her content is growing successfully,” Luthawan said. “She’s very talented, and it shows through her videos.”

Some examples of one of Mathusha’s makeup looks. Photos courtesy of Mathusha Thurairajasingam.

According to Mathusha, striking a balance between her schoolwork and makeup tutorials actually helps her relieve stress. “Sometimes I just need a break from studying, so this helps me balance both,” she said. “It’s good to take a breather […] That motivates you to study later.”

Mathusha’s Instagram page, however, is about more than just exploring her passion and bringing balance to her academic life. It’s about educating and helping her followers accept themselves for who they are. “When you believe in yourself, you are capable of doing more than you expect,” she said. “Education is important […] but if you have a passion for something, you should always dedicate time for it because time is running, and you don’t want to waste it.”

During your study breaks, you can check out Mathusha’s weekly posts by following @BeautyByMathu on Instagram.

Feature photo by Pamela Pagano.

Student Life

Euros, Dollars, Pounds…what about Bitcoins?

A controversial digital currency leaves some users and experts optimistic and others skeptical

When digging into popular Canadian newspaper archives, searching for the keyword “Bitcoin” might bring up a scary overload of information on cyber-attacks and ransom payments.

Right about now, though, you might also be asking yourself, what in the world is a Bitcoin?

Created in 2009 by a developer who goes by the name of Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin is an international digital currency. It started as an open, non-profit system. Today, it is most often associated with its affiliation to the black market, and how well it serves criminals.

It is virtually impossible for one person or one organization to control Bitcoin, according to Erik Voorhees, CEO of ShapeShift—a service that allows people to exchange money in different digital currencies. The Bitcoin system is different from all other government-issued currencies.

Montreal is home to the Bitcoin Embassy, an office where developers and entrepreneurs seek to educate the public about Bitcoin—a payment system that is both a bank and a currency.

Located on St-Laurent Boulevard, the embassy is open to the general public. Employees provide consultations and written resources from leading experts to help any interested civilian, or business leader understand what Bitcoin is and what it can do for them.

Bitcoin bypasses banks and government authority, said Voorhes. Transferring money with Bitcoin worldwide is free, no questions asked. The currency is stored in a digital wallet—basically a smartphone or a computer.  From there, the currency can also be printed out.  Only the account owner has access to the information contained in the “wallet.” A Bitcoin transaction is done by sending the payment to the address generated by the user’s Bitcoin wallet.

Canadians can buy Bitcoin from online sellers like Coinbase, or from one of the 117 Bitcoin ATMs across the country. One of them is located at Montreal’s Bitcoin Embassy.

The embassy has Bitcoin ATMs, and offers consulting services for people interested in using Bitcoin. Photo by Danielle Gasher

The list of corporations accepting Bitcoin payments is getting longer. For instance, you can add money to your Microsoft account with this currency. Students at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia can use Bitcoin to pay for their textbooks. It is also possible to pay your bills with Bitcoin using, a payment service firm that “was incubated at the Bitcoin Embassy,” wrote Danny Bradbury in an article for the specialized website CoinDesk.

“Bitcoins are created by the network itself, over time,” said Voorhees. The process is called mining, and it consists of resolving mathematical equations with sophisticated and powerful computers. The mining process is about creating a kind of track record for all Bitcoin transactions that have been made.  This process exists to prevent people from re-spending their Bitcoin. This mining process is available to anyone who has the appropriate computer software.

Bitcoin is a self-sufficient and self-regulating system—it creates a certain amount of bitcoins every ten minutes—this number is subject to inflation—and this amount is distributed among miners who have solved the equations.

According to yBitcoin Magazine, for the next four years, 12.5 bitcoins will enter the system every ten minutes. Voorhees wrote in yBitcoin that, as of October 2015, approximately 14 million bitcoins had been created, and that the system is capped at 21 million.

Chief architect for Bitcoin Store, David Perry, wrote in yBitcoin that Bitcoin is “a simple, elegant and modern replacement for the entire concept of money.”

A student uses the ATM to turn his money into Bitcoins. Photo by Danielle Gasher

“The effect will be to remove much of the current bureaucracy and barriers to entry, presenting a huge opportunity for the world’s 2.5 billion unbanked people,” said Tuur Demeester, an investor, analyst and expert on Bitcoin and blockchain technology, in the same publication.

Bitcoin is a decentralized system which can be used by anyone who has access to Internet. “It means a citizen of a tyrannical nation can hide his financial assets from seizure,” said Voorhees. “It means the wealthiest and the poorest of the world now have the same authority over their money.”

Bitcoin could undermine the current economic system, to some degree, if it started being used by the masses around the world. “It democratizes finance just as the Internet democratized speech,” said Voorhees.

While some experts like Demeester thinks Bitcoin belongs in everyone’s wallet because of its economic potential, others, like Voorhees, are most concerned with the fact that “private property can now truly be controlled by the owner.”


CSU’s financial practices, budget status called into question by resigning VP Pudwell

When the CSU’s VP sustainability and promotions Morgan Pudwell resigned last Thursday, she left a trail of accusations behind her, many of which focused on potential financial mismanagement within the student union. Pudwell wrote in her letter of resignation that the budget, as originally presented, was in fact entirely fabricated, that councillors and executives were told not to speak about the financial situation to anyone, and that nearly every budget line had been overspent.

All of these accusations have been denied by the remaining CSU executives, both in a statement and in interview with the Concordian. “There is in no way mismanagement of the budgets,” said current VP finance Ramy Khoriaty. “That’s an accusation that she doesn’t have any proof of.”

In her letter, Pudwell wrote that most budget lines had been overspent, explaining later that “In the budget that I was shown everything, even mail and office expenses, was pretty much over budget.” Khoriaty said this isn’t true, but that this was limited to three lines of spending: the speaker series, green initiatives and promotions budgets, and that these had been frozen as a result.

Additionally, Pudwell said that upon sitting down with Khoriaty she was told that certain items had been placed under her budget line that were not supposed to be there, including promotional material for orientation and mugs. “I was told when we ordered them that I was just doing the ordering simply because it was easier for the VP promotions to do all the ordering at once and it was cheaper,” she said. Khoriaty denied that extra expenses were added to her budget, though he admitted that a small error had been made which has since been corrected, a correction she said, if real, she had not been made aware of.

Due to the additions to her budget, the former VP said she was told that she had gone over budget and therefore had no finances at her disposal for the rest of this year. “With over half a semester left in office this left me in a position in which planned project and promised support/funding fell through,” she wrote in her letter.

And while Khoriaty denied any financial mismanagement and reasserted the CSU’s commitment to openness and transparency, having posted budgets online and having one on one sit-downs with each executive to go over finances, Pudwell alleged that she had not been given access to her own budget on multiple occasions. “I was specifically told that no executive would have access or be able to see their budget,” she said.

“Because of this secrecy,” she wrote in her letter, “I am still unaware of the CSU’s current financial status, despite having done everything in my power to find out. I question whether student money has been spent with respect for our members or in consideration of the law.”

Pudwell also said she was told not to speak about the union’s current financial situation, which CSU president Heather Lucas explained saying that executives were told not to speak about budgets because “they were numbers that were projected that we were waiting to get confirmed.” Lucas also said that in the end they had gotten both more and less money than expected from certain sources, resulting in changes to the initial budget Pudwell called ‘fabricated.”

The Concordian also requested financial documents from Khoriaty via email in late January, but received no response.

As of last night, a copy of the CSU’s projected budget, updated Mar. 4, was available for download on their website. For all except four fields however, the spending for this year to date is listed at $0.

Khoriarty says he will be giving a full, detailed budget report at the CSU council meeting tomorrow.


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