Last bank in Grand Manan closes

Submitted photo Grand Manan Island resident Gregg Russell created a visual demonstration on his lawn to depict Scotiabank’s departure from the island.

GRAND MANAN – The last bank in the Village of Grand Manan shut its doors for good on Aug. 24.

Scotiabank notified clients on the island in January of the branch’s closure.

The last ATMs were removed from the facility, however the doors weren’t officially shut until 11 a.m. last Wednesday, leaving the bank open for one final hour.

“I don’t really understand the rationale,” said Mayor Bonnie Morse.

“It doesn’t make any sense to me,” added Coun. Gregg Russell. “It’s in line with all the decisions they’ve made about Grand Manan, so I’m not surprised.”

The decision to close the only bank on the island received substantial pushback to no avail, and the impact on the community is significant.

Proximity Fiber, a local internet provider designed for rural communities, is now providing many residents of Grand Manan with improved internet. Morse says that while it’s a great improvement, there are many who have yet to make the switch or who are without internet entirely, making online banking a challenge.

“There are quite a few seniors, low-income families, and people with disabilities who don’t have internet,” said Russell. “I know a lot of them are very concerned.”

Scotiabank has committed a $10,000 donation to the island, which Morse says could potentially fund a representative who could assist with online banking, offering the in-person contact many community members, especially the elderly, are looking for.

“It’s not like having a bank, but it’s an alternative.”

Russell spoke with the former manager of the now closed Scotiabank branch in Grand Manan regarding a solution for those without internet. The solution they saw was over-the-phone banking, which Russell says goes against what seniors have been advised against.

“What have we been telling seniors for years? Don’t speak about your banking information over the phone,” he said.

A trip to the bank for residents of Grand Manan now involves a 1.5-hour ferry ride at a cost of $19.75, plus an additional charge of $6.50 per person in the vehicle. In total, Morse says islanders will spend a minimum of four hours on the mainland between wait times for check in at the ferry and completing their mainland tasks, checking in at the ferry at 6:45 a.m. and getting home at 3:30 p.m.

“It’s a serious time commitment,” she said.

“Some of (Grand Manan residents) physically can’t do those days,” added Russell.

Making a quick trip to the bank on your lunch hour no longer exists in Grand Manan. Some business owners will have to close for the day, losing an entire day of profits, to make a trip to the bank, according to Morse. Others will likely have to take a day off work, which is not universally simple.

The unavoidable day trip will also require other expenses including meals and gas.

“I personally struggle to go away (to the mainland) and spend under $100 between gas, fare and meals,” said Morse.

Some stores on the island provide cash back and ATMs without the deposit function are scarce, but available.

“It boggles my mind that this is where we are,” said Morse. “I worry about fundraisers. Some of those things you have $5 for, but now you may not.”

Morse expects an increase of islanders using e-transfer services, but with unreliable reception, it may not be the answer for the whole island.

The village will likely acquire the Scotiabank building, which Morse says will be turned into something that benefits the community. No decisions have been finalized at the moment.

“Grand Mananers are resilient, you have to be in order to live on a rock half an hour away from anything. Hopefully, we can make it work,” said Morse.

heatherknight@stcroixcourier.ca