An MP asks to meet with Canada’s finance minister in an effort to save the only bank on a remote island in New Brunswick.

Scotiabank is due to close its Grand Manan branch on August 24. The bank will also close its two ATMs on the same day.

Scotiabank says all customer accounts will be transferred to its nearest branch in St. George, NB

The only regular connection between Grand Manan and the mainland is a 1.5-hour ferry trip each way. The St. George branch is approximately 20 kilometers from the ferry landing in Blacks Harbour, NB

“Leaving the island is a full day trip,” says John Williamson, MPP for New Brunswick Southwest. “I hope the unique situation of the island will cause bank officials to rethink this.”

New Brunswick Southwest MLA John Williamson said he had requested a meeting with Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland in a bid to overturn the bank’s decision.

“I recognize that a lot can be done online today, but not everything, and certainly not with an economy like Grand Manan where it’s a thriving fishing economy, as well as a busy tourist center during summer,” he said.

Williamson said he also requested a meeting with the CEO of Scotiabank.

There was no immediate response to Williamson’s request from the Department of Finance or Scotiabank.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said it was difficult for him to condemn Scotiabank’s decision without knowing exactly why it did so.

“It’s hard for us to be able to tell about a private company where it’s going and where it’s not going,” Higgs told CTV Atlantic.

“I guess we would be interested to know what the conditions were. Didn’t people use the bank? Because there certainly seems to be enough economic activity on the island to suggest it could have its own bank. This has been the case for many years. But I guess that would be the question I would ask.

In a statement released earlier this month, Scotiabank said the decision to leave Grand Manan was based on a regular review of customer numbers and habits. When asked to elaborate on those details by CTV, Scotiabank offered no details.

ISLAND RESIDENTS CONTINUE TO PROTEST

Meanwhile, Grand Manan residents plan to move their protests off the island to Fredericton later this week, outside the provincial legislature and the main Scotiabank branch downtown in the capital.

Williamson said when the banks rallied against competition from foreign financial institutions in the federal government, community service was used as an argument.

“They argued that not only were they in a good position to do this, but they argued that this was a reason why the Government of Canada should continue to bar access to foreign banks,” Williamson said. “Okay, fair enough. They continue to be protected. But I think it’s up to them, in this case Scotiabank, to continue to serve a place like Grand Manan.

The closure of the Grand Manan bank is part of a growing trend in the province.

According to the Canadian Bankers Association, New Brunswick lost 10 bank branches – from 152 to 142 – between 2016 and 2020.

The only banks in Chipman, NB, and Hartland, NB left those communities at this time.