Bank closures punishing rural communities: Hughes

Ottawa –   Bank closures in rural communities is a growing problem which threatens economic growth and puts consumers at risk, according to Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP, Carol Hughes.

Hughes told parliament about the concerns that many constituents have when banks leave town which are not limited to the lack of a local branch.  Those include reduced access to services and a reliance on internet banking in areas that do not enjoy the same connectivity that can be found in urban settings.

“Many Canadians lack reliable access to broadband and cellular services that allow them to participate in online banking,” said Hughes who added “some people prefer to do their banking in person.”

People in the north also feel that a local branch is a safer option.

“With no local option, people are being asked to travel to communities that actually have banks which places them at unnecessary risk,” said Hughes.

In addition to access and safety there is a good economic argument for maintaining branches in smaller communities which can act as a business anchor.

“These bank closures can lead to economic instability,” said Hughes who mentioned recent RBC closures in Massey and Dubreuilville which left those communities without any financial institutions.

Hughes questioned the affordability argument that banks use to defend their abandonment of communities as well.

“Banks are posting record profits at the same time that they claim they can’t afford to maintain services in many small communities” said Hughes. 

The MP called on the Government to work with federally regulated financial institutions to ensure that rural consumers and businesses have access to local banking services and also for the introduction of a three to six month penalty-free period for consumers to move their financial business elsewhere when closures occur.