Scotiabank is set to close three branches in rural Nova Scotia, leaving some clients with more than an hour-long drive if they prefer to do their banking in person.
The Scotiabank branches in Westville and Sydney Mines will close in early June, and the branch in Sheet Harbour will close on Aug. 11. A spokesperson for Scotiabank said the closures are a result of a "fulsome business review," and the branches will be consolidated with others.
Some residents see the closures as part of a concerning trend.
"It is really an abandonment of the needs of the citizenry of rural and small-town Maritimes and Canada," said Marike Finlay-Demonchy, a retired professor and writer who has lived in the Sheet Harbour area for 26 years.
"I think it's a very selfish strategy on their part. I just don't understand it."
Few banking options left
In Sydney Mines, there will be two banks left after the Scotiabank branch closes. In Sheet Harbour and Westville, there will only be one.
"There are so many people … that need to go to that bank," said Finlay-Desmonchy. "They are elderly people. They are small business people. They are fishers. The bank is often very full when I go there."
Residents of Sheet Harbour who do their banking with Scotiabank are being told to drive to Truro if they need to do their banking in person, a drive that takes an hour and 15 minutes.
Sean Fraser, the MP for Central Nova, said in an emailed statement he was disappointed to hear of the closures, "particularly with such little notice to the public."
"Many rural residents in my riding, especially seniors, depend on the in-person service that has been available in Sheet Harbour for many generations," said Fraser, whose riding includes Sheet Harbour and Westville.
In lieu of in-person service, clients are being referred to online or telephone banking.
"Our team is committed to assisting customers with the move and to demonstrating alternate ways of banking, like telephone banking and online banking, and helping customers automate some of their banking needs such as deposits and bill payments," a spokesperson for Scotiabank said in an emailed statement.
Online banking not an option for everyone
However, internet service is inconsistent in many rural areas, including Sheet Harbour. Even with reliable internet access, online banking isn't a viable option for many, said one local resident.
"A lot of people who are seniors, they don't have laptops and they don't have the computer skills or savvy to actually sit down and work their bank accounts," said Bill McFarlane.
Scotiabank would not provide details on how many people are employed at the three branches, and if they will lose their jobs when the branches close. It also would not say how many clients use the three locations as their home branch.
McFarlane said his town's branch is more than just a bank.
"It's always on a first name basis, it's like talking to your neighbour," he said. "And to be honest, this is the kind of bank if the actual people on Bay Street [in Toronto] … knew about how this bank was, they would want a lot more of their banks like this."
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