Council says move of Credit Union office is a great disservice to town

GORE BAY—Gore Bay council members feel a great disservice has been done to the town and area residents by the Espanola District Credit Union by closing its office in Gore Bay and moving it to Mindemoya.

“Following the release of the news a couple of weeks ago that a decision had been made by the Espanola and District Credit Union (EDCU) board that they were closing the Gore Bay office and moving to Mindemoya, I had asked (town clerk) Annette (Clarke) to contact the board chair and invite him and any other member of the board to attend our meeting tonight,” said Gore Bay Mayor Ron Lane at a council meeting Monday. However, he told council the board chair Bill Hickey could not attend Monday’s meeting or council’s March meeting.

“I contacted Mr. Hickey myself, and he and Lindsay Liske, CEO of the Credit Union, and Annette and I met with them this afternoon,” said Mr. Lane. “As council, we had never received any official notice of what they intended to do. We found out like everyone els––on the street and in the local paper, which is totally unacceptable and something that Mr. Hickey apologized for.”

“The biggest reason I wanted to have the meeting is I wanted to hear directly why they have made this decision,” stated Mr. Lane. “Why a financial institution with a long history in town would close and move 28 miles down the road I couldn’t understand why, and needed more information.”

Mr. Lane explained that the two EDCU representatives had indicated at the meeting “they made it clear that neither of the two branches (on the Island)—Little Current and Gore Bay—are currently profitable. Little Current is holding its own because of the number of loans it has, but Gore Bay isn’t and hasn’t for the past couple of years. We were told the Credit Union needs to make loans for income in order to be profitable.”

“The Gore Bay branch has a high amount of credit, members are not borrowing, and has lost money for some time and can’t continue,” said Mr. Lane. “They said they have looked at all options available and felt the best option was to move to Mindemoya, but I’m not sure they will get the profits they are looking for by moving to Mindemoya.”

While the Gore Bay office is moving to Mindemoya, the local employees will have their jobs in Mindemoya. “And we were told the board decision is final, there will not be an office in Gore Bay, even on a part-time basis—the board decision was unanimous and that there is no going back on the decision.”

“As mayor of Gore Bay I’m not happy with the way this thing has been handled, for a financial institution that has a long history here to simply pull up and move,” said Mr. Lane, who said he’s been an EDCU member since he was about five-years-old.

“And this is not just a Gore Bay issue, it affects Credit Union members all over Western Manitoulin,” stated Mr. Lane. “And as a member of the Credit Union, I’m not happy.” He also said it is not a case of Gore Bay losing and Mindemoya gaining. No one in Mindemoya was pounding the pavement trying to get the Credit Union to move there.”

“I think this is a grave disservice to all the Credit Union members in the entire area, not just Gore Bay,” said Mr. Lane. “But I don’t know what the town can do. My personal opinion is that given the financial position, overall they (EDCU) are profitable and I can understand this is needed. But I don’t see the sense in moving the Gore Bay office 28 miles, or if it will mean more profits, when some people in the Mindemoya area are already members of the Credit Union and there is another long established bank in their community.”

“It seems the board has made up its mind and there is nothing we can do about it,” said Councillor Betsy Clark. While she doesn’t deal with the Credit Union, she asked what their loan rates are compared to other banking institutions on the Island.

The rates at the Credit Union are higher, the meeting was told. “That’s a reason they aren’t getting the loans they need,” said Ms. Clark.

“I’ve been a member of the Credit Union for a long time, and my experience with the Credit Union has been very good,” said Mr. Lane. “Even though they have higher loan interest rates, they are much less formal and more personal to deal with, and that is one reason it attracts people.”

“If they’ve known for two years they were having difficulty, why didn’t they pull up their socks and take measures, such as promoting their loans and services to get people in?” asked Councillor Harry VanderWeerden.

“I think a huge disservice is being done here, for a financial institution that has been here so long,” stated Councillor Lou Addison. “They didn’t even have the courtesy to send a letter to council or its members before making this decision. The board did a study four years ago in Mindemoya and I think this move has been in the works for a long time. It is not the citizens or council of Mindemoya pushing for it; it is the EDCU board and management that made this move. But it is a great injustice to all their members here in Gore Bay and Western Manitoulin. They should have been educating and advertising the services they provide, including loans.”

Tom Sasvari