Council seeks answers as to why Mindemoya’s Northern Credit Union branch is closing

MINDEMOYA—Central Manitoulin council is looking for answers to questions and concerns it has in regards to the recent announcement by Northern Credit Union that it is closing its Mindemoya branch effective November 30. 

“In the Expositor (last) week you provided some comments about the credit union closing here with all the services going to be amalgamated in Little Current,” said Councillor Derek Stephens at a council meeting last week. “I’m wondering if we are going to discuss this issue here tonight?”

“The report I gave is basically what you read in the paper,” said Mayor Richard Stephens. “I have been attempting to get ahold of the individuals and the people involved in the transfer of services from Mindemoya to Little Current. It was my understanding that when they became the Northern Credit Union (from the previous Espanola District Credit Union) on January 1, 2016 that there would be a much longer period for testing the waters to see if it was viable.” 

“Now it looks as if they made the decision to pull the plug here (Mindemoya),” said Mayor Stephens. He told council, “I’ve met with our MPP, Mike Mantha, on the concerns of the credit union moving. It isn’t because we are unhappy with the banking services being provided by the Bank of Montreal, but competition is good.”

“It was a very short period that the water was tested by the credit union (in Mindemoya),” said Mayor Stephens. “And we don’t have any answers as far as if there were financial problems, we have no explanation of why they are pulling out.”
Councillor Stephens said he has also talked to MPP Mantha on the issue and concerns.

“I indicated at least they should provide a bank machine in the municipality, so people would not have to go all the way to Little Current to do their banking. I would like to have some kind of representation of the credit union in Mindemoya.”

As was reported in the Expositor last week, Mindemoya businesses and residents were shocked to discover that Northern Credit Union intends to close its Mindemoya branch. The news was received by local members of the Northern Credit Union delegate group after it was released to local politicians, leaving some delegates privately disgruntled that they were not given advance notice in order to be better prepared to answer questions.

A press release reads, “while the credit union will no longer offer a bricks and mortar location in Mindemoya, its valued members will be able to access the physical branch in Little Current and Espanola. Or, if these members prefer, they can conduct their in branch duties at any one of Northern’s 32 branches located across Northern Ontario.”

A statement from Al Suraci, Northern Credit Union CEO states, “this consolidation was a very hard decision. I want to assure our esteemed members that we always keep their best interests at heart. This consolidation may not seem to be in line with this commitment, however, I can promise our members and Northern staff that this decision was made for the overall good of our credit union.”
The credit union points out that, “Mindemoya members are also extended a host of other banking options to help ensure they continue to receive the same high level of service they have become accustomed to. These include online banking and digital procurement tools and resources that allow them to access Northern’s products and services online-everything from chequing and savings accounts to investments and more.”

Credit Union Espanola-Manitoulin delegate chair Jim Brandow made it clear he was surprised, and is angry that the decision was made. “They have not been forthright,” he stated. “To me there was no questioning allowed, or information provided to the public—members of the credit union.”

“At one time the Bank of Montreal was the only horse in town, then the credit union got set up on the Island, and in Gore Bay,” said Mr. Brandow. “This benefitted members in Evansville and even further west. Then the branch office was moved from Gore Bay to Mindemoya. And now? They must think Mindemoya is a suburb of Little Current, and that location is a suburb of Espanola. It takes a heck of a lot longer than five minutes to get from one community to the other.”

“It is a slap in the face of members on Manitoulin, and Northern Ontario, and the concept of the Northern Credit Union,” said Mr. Brandow.
“I can’t believe they expect people to travel from Mindemoya to Little Current, which takes about a half an hour, or from Mindemoya to Espanola, which is over an hour away. And we’re not even talking about the members from Western Manitoulin who have been doing their banking in Mindemoya,” continued Mr. Brandow. “And the Northern Credit Union management team says the move is for the better of the credit union, but they haven’t provided any answers as to why this is the case.”

“No, they never contacted us at all, prior to making the decision,” said Mr. Brandow. “There was absolutely no indication this was in the works at all. It’s no wonder everyone has been angered, to say the least. Management should be telling all of us why it wasn’t working out in Mindemoya.”