Amalgamation concerns

·3 min read

Three credit unions in western P.E.I. are proposing a merger with Provincial Credit Union and at least one former Tignish board member doesn’t think it’s a good idea.

This April, members of the Tignish Credit Union, Évangéline-Central Credit Union and Malpeque Bay Credit Union will vote on whether to merge with Provincial Credit Union, which has branches in Stratford, Rustico and Montague.

The boards of the four credit unions have already voted in favour of the merger, but the members will have the final say.

Cletus Dunn used to be on the board of directors at the Tignish Credit Union but he resigned after it became clear the board was in favour of the merger.

He and four others have formed an opposition group. They’re worried the Tignish branch would lose decisionmaking power and the whole town would suffer if the amalgamation happens.

“We’ll lose one of the four pillars of the co-operative community of Tignish, which is the Royal Star fisheries, the Co-op store, the medical health centres and the credit union. (They) are the four main pillars of the community and we’d hate to lose one of those,” said Dunn, adding he’s not against amalgamation, he’s just not in favour of this one.

Bernard Gillis, CEO at Provincial Credit Union said the Tignish Credit Union is not going anywhere.

“You’ll continue to see the same staff you’re used to dealing with at your branch,” said Gillis.

None of the branches will close, no one will lose their job and services will remain the same after the merger, said Gillis.

Additionally, board representation will be equal around the table – each of the four credit unions will hold three seats on the board of directors.

“First and foremost, the merger is about being stronger for our members. The four credit union boards decided merging is the best way to be sustainable going forward allowing us to continue serving our members, while providing our employees more opportunities and growing our support of our communities,” said Gillis. “The new credit union will also be better positioned to face the increased demands that are required for both digital technology and compliance infrastructure.”

The boards hope the merger will also allow the new credit union to stand up to competition from banks and non-traditional players like digital banks and mobile wallet apps like Google Pay and Apple Wallet.

“In order for us to address those services that people are going to require, then, far easier to pay for it once rather than four times,” said Gillis referring to fees paid by the institution for things like mobile banking.

“It’s trying to look ahead into the future to ensure that we remain competitive and continue to thrive,” said Gillis. “Certainly, COVID has provided us with a bit of a window into what that (future) potentially is going to look like. We have seen the traffic within all our branches decrease and certainly we’ve seen the increase in electronic transactions.”

Ultimately though, the decision is in the hands of the 35,000 members. For the merger to move forward, two-thirds plus one vote must be cast in favour of the merger at each impacted credit union.

Meetings are scheduled for the final days in March for members to voice concerns and ask questions.

Voting will take place from April 14 to 28. If the merger is voted in, it will become official on Oct. 1. Gillis urges anyone with questions to check the website strongerformembers.com.

Alison Jenkins, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Journal-Pioneer