Friday, December 08, 2017

$1.25

 

Canadian Publications Agreement No. 40727545

←  Go back

RBC public meeting regarding Apsley office closure

November 10, 2017

 

BY TERRY GILLIS

 

On October 4, 2017 the Apsley community was shocked to learn that RBC, Apsley’s only bank would be closing in April 2018 after nearly 60 years of service.

 

In the formal closure letter to RBC customers dated October 6, 2017 it stated ‘that, after a careful review of a number of factors we are merging our Apsley branch into our Lakefield branch on April 20, 2018.’

 

The community’s reaction to the news was not passive. North Kawartha Councillor Carolyn Amyotte and former RBC employee Amanda Gray (both business owners) took to social media and created the ‘Stop Apsley RBC Closure!’ Facebook Group and the SOB (Save Our Bank) campaign garnered thousands of supporters.

 

The two Apsley residents also began circulating a petition and embarked upon a letter writing campaign, reaching out to all levels of government.

In one of her letters to the RBC, Carolyn Amyotte said, “not consulting with its clients, the community or township council prior to the proposed closure does not support RBC’s vision ‘to be among the world’s most trusted’, nor does it align with its stated values of ‘clients first’ or ‘integrity’. The community has no idea what those ‘number of factors’ are, nor has there been any opportunity given to us to try and address them.”

 

On November 2, 2017, RBC, as mandated by federal law, held a public meeting (six months prior to closure) at the North Kawartha Community Centre. Approximately 125 residents attended the meeting which was lead by RBC regional vice-president Scott Mancini. Also in attendance was Lakefield RBC manager Patty Perry, many of the Apsley RBC employees, Kawartha Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Manager Sherry Boyce-Found and a representative from MP Maryam Monsef’s office.

 

In an email, exclusive to the Lakefield Herald, MP  Monsef stated that “I have heard from many of the citizens of North Kawartha about their concerns regarding the closure of the RBC branch in Apsley. From people concerned about the length of the drive to Lakefield, particularly in the winter, to organizations like the local foodbank that needs to deposit coins on a regular basis: They will lose a simple, yet necessary service that online banking or an ATM can’t provide. I have heard from small business owners and community members worried that if people need to drive to Lakefield to bank, they might do other business and shopping there too.

 

My rural colleagues and I share these concerns, as we are acutely aware that the economic prosperity of rural Canada is essential if we are to maintain a strong economy for Canada and grow the middle class.

 

I would encourage anyone who has further comments or concerns they would like to share with me to contact my office directly. We have a devoted staff member for this issue.”

~ Maryam Monsef, Member of Parliament, Peterborough—Kawartha

 

The Hon. Jeff Leal, MPP Peterborough and the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs as well as Minister Responsible for Small Business was not in attendance.

 

In her response to the Lakefield Herald’s questions regarding the November 2 meeting, Lakefield RBC Branch Manager Patti Perry said that “the goal of the meeting was to continue a conversation that we have been having with our clients, and the community, since announcing the merger of Apsley branch into Lakefield branch.  This conversation is about looking ahead to find solutions to concerns and questions that the community might have regarding this decision. And while this decision is final, we hope to partner with the community in exploring and identifying creative solutions to benefit Apsley’s financial and digital needs that includes exploring access to better internet connection in the community along with upgrading the current ATM to a Smart ATM.”

 

Perry also commented that “this is a change for our clients, it’s also a change for our staff. I am happy to share that all of our staff from the Apsley branch will be moving with us to the Lakefield branch so residents here will continue to see familiar faces. We are confident that with this change we will continue to meet the changing needs of our clients. Just this morning I attended the ABC Seniors Lunch to speak with residents and address any questions they may have. One gentleman shared that he had attended our community information session and had a lot to say and then he went home and thought about it and is now retracting his earlier statements and fully understands the reasoning behind the consolidation. While this won’t be the case for all Apsley residents, we are here and committed to supporting each one through this transition and we look forward to continue to serve them at the Lakefield branch.

 

RBC did not permit media to record the meeting. Councillor Amyotte objected to the ban and was informed that it was RBC’s meeting, RBC was paying for it, thus it was RBC’s rules.

 

Mancini said the digital world is changing the way banks and clients interact.

 

North Kawartha seniors shared concerns about travel to Lakefield and a lack of internet access or slow internet speeds. Business owners expressed their concerns over the difficulties of conducting day to day business without a local financial institution.  Amyotte said that, “losing a critical piece of infrastructure and/or service creates a ripple effect which is harshly felt in rural/remote communities. It often becomes a slippery slope as to what other amenities or services we can ‘live without’ or ‘drive for’.”

 

Mancini stressed that RBC will continue to assist residents in the days leading up to and after the merger. He said RBC will look at options to set up a high-speed internet solution and that the bank will maintain an ATM in the community.

Carolyn Amyotte said the meeting was, “heartbreaking,” for her community. She left “feeling pretty defeated,” but insisted “we’re not giving up. Our town and our people are too important,” she said.

 

She and Amanda Gray haven’t given up on their SOB (Save Our Bank) campaign, however, they are shifting their focus. Additionally, Council and other stakeholders are looking for alternative financial providers and are continuing to move forward.

 

At the November 7 North Kawartha council meeting nine letters were submitted in response to the RBC closure as well as  Scott Mancini, Regional Vice President, Kawartha-Lakeshore Region, Royal Bank of Canada,  October 25, 2017, response to North Kawartha Resolution of  October 17, 2017 which declared that the Mayor of North Kawartha on behalf of the Municipal Council and our Community, send a letter to the Chief Executive Officer of RBC and stated Council’s and our Community’s implicit opposition to the closing of the full service branch located in Apsley in the Township of North Kawartha; AND FURTHER that the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) be requested to require RBC to convene a meeting where bank representatives, representatives of the FCAC and interested parties in the vicinity of the branch, can exchange views about the proposed closure of the Apsley RBC; AND FURTHER since RBC has already reserved the North Kawartha Community Centre banquet hall for a public meeting November 2, 2017, that we invite the FCAC representatives to attend that meeting.

 

A copy of Mancini’s response was not available.

 

NOTE:

 

A comment was received from The Hon. Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and MPP for Peterborough  after print deadline:

 

"As the Minister of Rural Affairs, it’s incredibly important to me that our small, rural and remote communities have access to the important services they need to support them in their everyday lives.  As the MPP for Peterborough, I understand the impact that RBC’s decision will have on Apsley.  While the regulation of the banking industry is under the purview of the federal government,  our province continues to encourage creative solutions that will help keep our  rural communities vibrant.  One of the ways this is done is by encouraging the establishment of community hubs, who offer coordinated social services such as education, health care and social services under one roof.  I am currently working with my colleagues to explore how we can continue to encourage the private sector, such as the banking industry, to partner with local service providers to ensure rural communities like Apsley can continue to access the important services they need."

- Jeff Leal, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and MPP for Peterborough