Grand Manan is home to a picturesque coastline, an active fishery, pebbly beaches, and small businesses ranging from takeouts and cafes to convenience stores and art galleries, serving a population of around 2,400 people year-round.
But after August 24, there is one key service that Grand Manan will not be able to offer: a bank.
Scotiabank announced in January its intention to close its Grand Manan branch, the only bank on the island for more than 100 years, and also close the island’s only ABM.
“I really thought it was a joke at first,” Selena Leonard said, as she made a cash deposit at the bank. “I thought it was just one of those things you see on Facebook that just aren’t true.”
“It became kind of a nightmare when we found out it was true.”
Leonard and her husband live on the island, where they have two restaurants.
so close yet so far
She says a full day of travel, plus meals, to do routine banking is out of reach for most people on the island, many of whom would have to take a day off.
In summer, Coastal Transport operates two ferries, with two hours between each trip. The rest of the year, there are four hours between trips and a ferry.
“There are quite a few people who do online banking, but a lot of our population is seniors who don’t, and not everyone would have a family that could help them,” Leonard said.
For some, that would mean having to “hire someone to take them to the mainland. Then they have to feed them, pay the boat fee, and pay that person to go and deposit, like $100, or their senior’s check.” “. or whatever.”
Tabitha Bainbridge was withdrawing cash at Grand Manan Scotiabank with her aunt, who is in her 80s and lives in North Head.
“This, sadly, I guess, will be the last time I visit the bank to withdraw some money. I’m not happy about all of that,” Bainbridge said.
Her aunt “doesn’t use smartphones. Although we tried to convince her, she doesn’t have a computer, she doesn’t use an ATM, so she can’t go 45 minutes to St. George every time she needs to pay her bills.”
“Like many of the seniors here in person, they bring their bill and pay it in person. So it’s ridiculous that they’re talking about leaving this island without a bank,” Bainbridge said.
A series of workshops have been held at the bank branch, called Digital Days, for anyone who needs help learning to use alternatives such as online and telephone banking.
The next session will be on August 11.
Theft, attracting new business is a concern
Leonard is also concerned that companies with large amounts of cash may attract certain shady clients.
“I’m scared for our business and for other business owners. Our houses and our businesses will have, like, big bull’s-eyes painted on them. ‘Oh, come rob me because we have cash.'”
“I’m not really looking forward to it. Just a little bit scared and anxious about it,” he said.
The mayor is also concerned about the future prospects of the island and wonders if companies considering setting up in Grand Manan might not want to do so without a financial institution.
town halls, protests
Grand Mananers has gone to great lengths to get Scotiabank to reverse the decision.
There have been heated town halls and peaceful protests. One resident, Gregg Russell, went to Toronto and organized a one-man picket outside the Scotiabank headquarters on King Street West.
John Williamson, the area’s Conservative MP, arranged a meeting between Grand Manan Mayor Bonnie Morse and members of the federal finance department, including a policy adviser to Chrystia Freeland.
“They were very knowledgeable about our issues, but really their scope, or their ability to do anything about the bank closing, is quite limited,” Morse said.
CLOCK | Why some Grand Manan residents may not be able to switch to online banking:
Mayor Morse says the village council is meeting with local businesses to determine what they need, and his Economic Development Committee is working to find potential options. But there have been no concrete answers.
The loss of traditional banks is a story unfolding in rural communities across Canada.
In New Brunswick, Scotiabank also closed its historic branch in the town of Bath, population around 500, in July.
What the hell are you thinking?
The uncertainty is hard on people in Grand Manan who remember a time when banks and other businesses felt more connected to their community and saw customers as more than “just numbers on a page,” as Leonard put it.
“This decision was made as a result of a thorough business review,” the bank said in a statement. “We believe this relocation will help us provide better service and greater resources to our customers in the Grand Manan and St. George communities.”
Selena Leonard doesn’t believe that. She has a question for the Scotiabank officials who made the decision to close the bank.
“What the hell are you thinking?”
“It’s just a number on a page in an office where they have no idea how remote and unique the island is – how difficult and inconvenient it is for people to escape,” he said.
“We have been faithful to you. It is your turn.”