Wilberforce community stands unitedto open a new bank

by Angela Long

June 29 2016

After news that the WilberforceScotiabank will be closing its doors as of January Wilberforce israllying to put their money where their mouth is – in a bank thatunderstands small-town values.

On June 28 dozens of business ownersand concerned residents gathered at Lloyd Watson Centre to discussoptions for ensuring a full-service bank remains at the heart oftheir town.

Highlands East Reeve Dave Burton openedthe meeting.

"The bank is closing. Period.That's behind us" he said.

What lies ahead for the community is anew challenge – the mission to attract a credit union.

Highlands East CAO/treasurer ShannonHunter shared information she'd learned from a representative of theKawartha Credit Union.

In order to be considered the town must provethey have at least $20 million in deposits and assets. In additionthe credit union said Wilberforce would have to "show us why weshould go there."

Competition it turns out for aKawartha Credit Union is tough. The 60-year-old union currentlyserves 50000 members and has 25 branches from Cornwall to ParrySound.

Their website states the democratically owned union offers a"local-focus" including community involvement charitabledonations and a profit-distribution scheme.

Hunter said several other rural Ontariotowns have found themselves in the same boat as Wilberforce and arealready courting Kawartha Credit Union.

"I think we have to get creative"she said.

Last night's meeting made it clear thatany option other than a full-service bank is simply not on the table.

When Scotiabank suggested installing a bank machine in Foodland toprovide for the community's future banking needs owner CraigMcDonald said he told them to forget it. Scotiabank's Wilberforcebranch is something more than a place to withdraw money he said.

It's an integral part of a network of services that keeps the townvibrant. Despite their pleas McDonald and many others at the meetingsaid Scotiabank refused to acknowledge this importance.

"They don't care" saidMcDonald. "I'm going to start closing my accounts. Why should Igive them any more business?"

It was a sentiment expressed by severalother business owners and even Burton.

"Our account with the township is$10 million" he said. He's prepared to tell Scotiabank "you'regoing to lose it."

On July 12 the bank has scheduled acommunity meeting.

"I'm confused" Moonlight BayTent and Trailer Park owner Nataly Mylan said "Why is the bankeven coming?"

Burton said "To prove they'retransparent."

Some talked of staging a "sit in"to welcome the bank or setting up a picket line. Others talked ofwithdrawing all their money in cash and of harnessing "greypower" – the financial clout of seniors. For such a smalltown the talk grew big.

"This isn't going to be a localWilberforce issue" one resident said. "It's going to beCanada wide."

By the end of the meeting Wilberforcehad gathered forces to "stand united." Hands shot up tovolunteer for a committee to start a credit-union campaign and asMylan said "get the facts behind us."

The group of seven representative ofWilberforce's diverse community will meet on July 5.