Charting Population in Canada

A couple months ago, some population statistics popped up (Everyone knows rural Canada’s population is tanking. Except it’s not. | Contrarian) in an interesting graph:


However, the raw numbers of rural Canadians is actually increasing:

Canada’s rural population has been rising quite steadily since 1851. True, the increase has levelled off over the last two decades, but so has the decline in our share of Canada’s total population…our influence and political power? That has indeed been falling. Which may be why urban statisticians could publish such a misleading chart. – Parker Donham


This new chart, however, does not explain the struggling political influence and diminishing power of rural Canada compared to urban Canada. Zoom out a little, without truncating the axis or omitting data sets, and you can see what is actually going on:

Graph of rural vs urban Canadian population



I can never tell if this is kind of thing happens because of listening to or ignoring an SEO expert.

The Virgin Letters

I am frustrated with the Canadian mobile phone industry. I would say “today” but this is an ongoing hate/hate relationship. I spent that last couple weeks dealing with Virgin Mobile Canada customer service for several issues (data overage charges, inability to upgrade my plan online, missing data service after signing my iPhone 4S up to a Blackberry plan, missing voice mail and call display features, and then random overcharging) unrelated to my current beef but today I was motivated to tweet:

…and collect them all in a Facebook post

…and then further collect my thoughts in a letter I wrote to their Managing Director:

My issue with Virgin Mobile Canada is that as a current customer (or member, as your company refers to me), I can’t pre-order an iPhone 5 online or over the phone. That may sound like a “first world problem” but you are offering these standard, modern convenience to new customers only (or “hook ups” as you refer to them). These are people you don’t know their name, address, phone number, email or credit card information. You already know all of these things about me, yet I have to physically go to your store (or in my case in Halifax, a lonely kiosk) and place a pre-order in person, leave the mall and then wait for an undisclosed amount of time as you ship the phone to my door. That seems like a pretty lousy advantage for being a member of your exclusive club. I’m not against the wait or shipping, I just think that I am an easy sale and should be treated with equal respect.

I hate to pile all my dissatisfaction on your shoulders, but I was disconnected three times by your customer service staff and given very little help besides being late for work and going to mall. The weird thing is that this is exactly why I left Rogers in 2010 after 10 long years of contracts. I decided to leave before my contract ended to get an iPhone 4, so I had to pay a premium to stop the crappy service and was excited at the options you offered. Now, it seems Super Tab is no longer and option and I am in the same position I was before. Rogers didn’t have pre-ordering then but I still felt that a new customer showing up in person during a delivery of phones was better off than me, as a contracted Rogers customer.

It is my observation that Canadian cell providers mostly expect contractual, committed long-term spending and continue to provide preferential service to new, fresh customers off the street. I would literally be able to pre-order a new product right now if I didn’t already spend hundreds of dollars for two different mobile plans (a Super Tab and a month-to-month) with you since 2010. I still question how you well you would end up treating these new customers (i’m not that jealous of a three-year contract), but in this instance I am at a disadvantage as a member. Even if I buy an unlocked phone, which I did with the iPhone 4S, the service plans are the same as the ones for people paying a subsidy. So, where does my subsidy go?

Long story short? It is 2012 and I don’t want to go to a mall kiosk across town (I think you only have one kiosk left) to pre-order a phone that you will end up mailing to my door. You should be conscious and aware about how narrow-minded and near-sighted this service is to your locked-in customers. There is no reason that we can’t at least be treated like a potential long-term revenue stream, beyond that years of your limiting, constrictive phone plans.

— Iain K. MacLeod

I’m shocked I didn’t post before about my previous dealings with Rogers, but I was about to welcome our second child into the world and was a bit busy. Basically, I was customer for many years and wanted to get the iPhone 4 and some sort of plan for my older 3G. Visiting in person got me little to no help or advice plus I was continually told I would just have to keep showing up to see if they get the iPhone 4 delivered. There was no pre-ordering and if a non-customer stopped by during a delivery period, they would get a phone before me. I thought that this was unacceptable and decided to switch to Virgin because they happen to have the phone I wanted in stock.

The problem I am having now is similar, but at least the carriers have figured out that pre-ordering is an option. The problem boils down to taking their customers for granted. Here is what Virgin has to say for themselves:

…and through e-mail:

Thanks for the note and I apologize for the inconvenience. The
unfortunate reality is that our online systems cannot facilitate upgrades.
We are woking on provisioning this but it’s a complicated build.
Our kiosk in Halifax or our store in Dartmouth will be able to facilitate
your upgrade if eligible.

Andrew Bridge
Managing Director
Virgin Mobile Canada

This is intentional…in the sense that current customers are not as much a priority as getting new customers. It is insulting to read these responses, blaming it on some sort of crazy technical problem. A temporary fix would involve using a pencil and a piece of paper.

The real problem I am faced with is that there isn’t much choice. Our government is propping up an oligopoly and there is no evidence that the major players are competing with each other. Rogers seems better equipped to pre-order now (my issues were pre-pre-ordering), but just try using their phones outside of Halifax or dealing with their staff.

The other idiotic thing is that even if you decide to buy an unlocked phone instead of getting a cheaper “subsidized” phone from a carrier by committing to a 3 year contract, you will end up paying about the same amount per month for service. You will have the freedom to change carriers, but what is the point if Rogers, Fido, Bell Mobile, Telus, Koodoo, and Virgin aren’t looking for anything more substantial outside of a “hook-up”?

Update: Sounds liks a similar story over at Bell:

Looks like existing Bell customer are unable to pre-order the iPhone 5 through their website at this moment. We’ve received word from a Bell customer via twitter that only new customers can order the iPhone 5 online, while existing Bell customers need to call their helpline or visit in-store to pre-order an iPhone 5.

Bell iPhone 5 Online Pre-Orders Are Now Live | iPhone in Canada

Update 2: I took a screen shot of the offer made by Virgin Mobile Canada on Facebook. I am just realizing that there is another problem with this. Only the middle ($279.99 32G) and high-end ($379.99 64GB) version of the iPhone 5 is being offered to customers (aka “members”) while new customers have the entry-level iPhone 5 ($179.99 16GB) as an option. These prices assume 3 more years of contracted service from Virgin Mobile Canada, where I can only assume they will be working overtime on incentives for new people to sign-up instead of taking care of there current customer base that actually fell for Virgin’s friendly yet deceitful marketing.

Membership has its disprivileges. MT @virginmobilecanada: It's not preferential treatment.

Update 3: This was mentioned in iPhone in Canada. I have also contacted Apple, the Better Business Bureau and The Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) with my story.

Update 4: Better Business Bureau isn’t interested because it looks like they “already made a reasonable effort to resolve this matter.” …if you think me paying out the remainder of my SuperTab/Contract and becoming a Telus customer is reasonable.

Update 5: The Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services (CCTS) reviewed my complaint about not giving existing customers the same treatment and they said “It is our assessment that the subject-matter of your complaint relates to general operating practice(s)/policy matters. Further to Section 4.3 of our Procedural Code, CCTS is not able to issue Recommendations and Decisions that directs or requires a service provider to change their operating practices and policies.” Well, that is too bad. I guess my only options are to stay with Virgin Mobile Canada and hope they change by signing up for a 3 year contract (or buying an unlocked phone from Apple) or moving to another carrier. Hmmm, I guess this is goodbye, Virgin. Sorry if I was too demanding.

Update 6: It’s official. My two numbers/accounts were ported yesterday, thanks to a business rep with GBS Communications that handles Telus service in my area. Cheaper and more flexible monthly plans, brand new hardware and sensible subsidy model. With Virgin Mobile Canada’s Super Tab, I still owe over $300 for an iPhone 4 purchased in 2010.

You Can Count On RIM

I read this last fall and meant to post about it. I still can’t really wrap my head around the entirety of it, but it sounds like we are about to witness a rebirth of RIM much like Apple. Is anyone out there still holding their breath?

Excerpts from Ken Coates: Don’t count out Research In Motion | National Post.

The best tech companies morph with and respond to the marketplace. They take big hits as they reposition themselves, but well-managed firms find their feet again quickly. Remember when Apple was on the skids a few years back? Things were so bad they turfed Steven Jobs, which was akin to a sick patient agreeing to a lobotomy and the removal of his heart. Jobs returned, Apple rediscovered its design mojo, and the firm climbed to even greater heights. The premature obituaries on Apple read very much like the scare-mongering currently surrounding RIM.

Canadians need to throw their weight behind Canadian frontrunners…Canadians need to understand that Canada’s economic future is tied directly to our ability to create and sustain companies like RIM.

#bigdaydowntown Part 2 – Try Something New: Electric Boogaloo

$100 Downtown Halifax RBC Visa #bigdaydowntown

It seems like yesterday I was running through Downtown Halifax with my daughter Rowan in hand (read about or watch our initial #bigdaydowntown adventure), flashing the $100 Visa to anyone who would swipe it. We had a great time blowing our budget in a 4-year-old approved fashion and were honoured to be asked back to participate.

This year the rules had changed. Downtown Halifax Business Commission’s Big Day Downtown 2 focused on getting people to try out new things. Since Rowan just started school and I just started a parental leave with Kenna, the newest addition to our family, I knew what had to be done.

Massive “Wired” Iced Mocha & Blueberry Oatmeal $8.65

The main goal was to spoil Kenna, but I’m not completely selfless. After an early morning wake-up and a lesisurely walk downtown from the Hydrostone, I needed a caffeinated boost to get me through the rest of the day. I decided to start our adventure at The Wired Monk (5147 Morris St) after reading many great comments about the place on twitter (I’m looking at you @bitdepth and @yelphalifax). I never realized it was a franchise coffee shop but it definitely doesn’t have a “chainy” feel. I quickly glanced at the menu and ordered a massive Iced Mocha along with a Blueberry Oatmeal muffin (pictured above). With tip and taxes, that came to $8.65 (pretty standard mark-up around these parts for a large specality drink and baked good). I should note that if you can’t find a seat, make sure you walk around to the back stairs and check out the lower level.

After powering-up, our first child-friendly purchase was a couple of finger puppets from Feroz Design Handcrafted Jewellery and Accessories (5112 Prince St). I went with the witch and ladybug, although I had nothing against the other critters available in the basket. Total cost: $9.18.

A Halifax A•B•C $14.40 with member discount #bigdaydowntown

We have been members of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia for several years now (It’s worth joining just to access the Family Sundays and check out the annual Sobey Art Award nominees) but I never exit through the gift shop. The gift shop had several interesting things that jumped out at us, including a stuffed Pablo Picasso doll that was on clearance and tons of Maud Lewis paraphalia, but I went with the local board book A Halifax A•B•C (pictured above). It came to $14.40 with our 10% member discount.

I had another membership card that entitled me to a never-before-used discount, so we went up the road to The Discovery Centre and checked out the puzzles and science-related products in the shop. I picked up the Heart Warming™ Mini Microbe Box, a bizarre collection made up of a tiny stuffed Sperm Cell, Egg Cell, Kissing Disease, Penicillin, and an Amoeba (apparantly, a limited edition item). I didn’t see the Heart Burned™ Mini Microbe Box (featuring Herpes, Pox, HPV, Chlamydia and Penicillin) there, so I would assume that would be a special order. I also tossed in a ubiquitous Earth/Globe Stress Ball (sans logo) that I remember having when I was a kid. It came to $27.48 after our 15% member discount.

Rubber Duck $11.50 #bigdaydowntown

Biscuit General Store (1661 Argyle St) is a cutting edge and respected clothing store on Argyle Street. Extensive female fashions, stylish men’s clothing, Urban Outfitter-esque like oddities and a relatively new and carefully curated children’s section. I passed right by the full-sized rubber chicken and went with a pint-sized, Original Rubber Duck from Rich Frog (pictured above). It came to $11.50 and squeaks.

DeSerres (1546 Barrington St), formerly Loomis & Toles, is known as an art and craft supply store (and whatever need a Star Wars™ Moleskine® might fill), but there is also a creative toy section. I decided on the Melissa and Doug Fill and Spill Stuffed Toolbox instead of bringing home the Fill and Spill Pretty Purse to counter-balance all things Barbie and Disney Princess that make their way into our home. It was $17.19 (on sale) and compliments my girlfriend’s own tool belt.

Our final purchase was at Inkwell Modern Handmade Boutique & Letterpress Studio (1658 Market St), a showcase of printed paper goods, jewellery and other handmade art pieces from all around the world. I short-listed some prints involving small animals and kid-friendly typography, but decided on the locally screen printed image of a LEGO® person. It came to $21.28 and we ended up going $9.68 over our $100 budget.

#bigdaydowntown Finale

On the walk home, I got myself a completely tuckered-out toddler (pictured above). Value: Priceless.

Addendum: Big Browse Downtown

  • I had high hopes for Maritime Hobbies & Crafts (1521 Grafton St) but we weren’t in a train, rocket, model or kyte-flying mood. I was almost tempted by a copy of The Settlers of Catan, though.
  • I popped into The Dancing Beaver Gallery, but it was a little too folk-arty/touristy for our taste.
  • We breezed through Bishop’s Landing, Historic Properties and Scotia Square but didn’t end up finding much of anything new or noteworthy.
  • We looked around at Sugah! (1479 Lower Water St) and they have some great treats for those with a sweet tooth and also some neat shirts that combine sea creatures with candy.
  • We browsed the used bookstore Jade W (5233 Prince St), but I was a little overwhelmed and felt like I was an extra in an episode of Hoarders. They have a lot to choose from (second floor, left of the stairs), but you have to be in the mood to scavenge.
  • United Bookstore is a spot I regularly check for great, random finds. I ended up getting the Art and Making of Monster House for about $12 for Rowan. Of course, I shopped there previously so I would have to use the excuse that Kenna hadn’t shopped there before if we did buy anything.

Gift Card - My Prepaid Visa Card -