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Grand Manan mayor heads to Ottawa in last-ditch effort to save island’s only bank

Click to play video: 'Closure of only bank on remote N.B. island approaching' Closure of only bank on remote N.B. island approaching
WATCH: Time is running out for residents on Grand Manan Island hoping to stop the community's last bank from leaving. Without a bank on the island, a simple trip to the teller could turn into a whole day affair for the island's two thousand residents. As Travis Fortnum reports, the community is now hoping the federal government can help – Jun 10, 2022

The mayor of the remote community stationed on Grand Manan Island will head to the nation’s capital next week in a Hail Mary attempt to save the island’s last remaining bank.

In little more than two months, Scotiabank will close its branch on the island, which is about 50 kilometres off the mainland of New Brunswick, leaving some 2,400 residents scrambling to plan a day trip anytime they need to deal with a bank teller.

Read more: ‘Save our bank’: Residents protest closure of only bank on N.B. island

Bonnie Morse, mayor of Grand Manan, figures that trip will take about nine hours.

She doesn’t think most politicians – or bank employees in a Toronto office tower – recognize that.

“In Ottawa or Toronto, you have no idea what the story is about leaving Grand Manan and what that means,” she says. “When you look at the map we really don’t look that far away.”

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Bonnie Morse, Mayor of Grand Manan, will head to Ottawa for a June 15 meeting with federal finance officials.
Bonnie Morse, Mayor of Grand Manan, will head to Ottawa for a June 15 meeting with federal finance officials. Courtesy: Bonnie Morse

In plotting out a hypothetical trip to the next-closest Scotiabank branch in St. George, N.B., Morse says residents would probably need to catch the 7:30 a.m. ferry to the mainland, and be required to wait in the boarding area 45 minutes before that.

The ferry itself costs upwards of $30, depending on the size of your vehicle and number of passengers, and takes 90 minutes to reach the mainland.

From there, St. George is a 15-minute drive but having caught that early ferry you’re likely to arrive before that branch opens at 10 a.m., which will me you’re waiting some more.

After doing your banking you’ve got to get to the ferry terminal in Black’s Harbour 45 minutes before the next scheduled departure – Morse figures at that point you’d be catching the 1:30 p.m. ferry, arriving on Grand Manan between 3 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

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Read more: Scotiabank closure will be ‘another blow’ to rural N.S. community

She points out that, in most cases, that would need to be done on a business day, meaning many people are not only paying for the ferry trip and gas, they’re also going to have to take a day off work.

“It just creates an impossible situation for people who want to continue to do in-person banking.”

Morse says New Brunswick Southwest Member of Parliament John Williamson has set up a meeting with officials from the federal finance department – including staff from Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office.

Morse will be joined by Grand Manan Councillor Gregg Russell, who has been outspoken in trying to keep the island’s bank in business – organizing a rally in May to raise awareness.

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“We decided back in January we were going to do anything and everything we could to find a solution and, while this may be a longshot, sometimes a longshot pays off,” Morse says.

Global News reached out to Scotiabank to see if there have been any updates since they last provided a statement in May.

A spokesperson says there have been no changes. A statement provided says, in part:

“We regularly review our branch network, the number of customers that we serve in the market area, and the way that those customers are doing their banking. We look forward to the opportunity to work with customers to understand how we can help make this transition easier.”

Read more: Family of displaced Ukrainians looks to call a remote New Brunswick island home

Morse says she isn’t sure what will come of Wednesday’s meeting on Parliament Hill, but that the island is running out of options.

She says staff have tried soliciting all major banking institutions and credit unions to try and usher in a replacement to no avail.

Morse says, while it doesn’t sound like there are any laws the feds can use to force Scotiabank to stay, there will no doubt be influence in the room.

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She says she has to try.

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