By Andrea Arnold

After Scotiabank announced in October that it was closing the McBride branch and relocating to Prince George in September 2024, the Village of McBride has been working to find a solution that will prevent the community from losing local banking options.

McBride Mayor Gene Runtz says they are hoping to find a solution that will provide some form of in-person banking and available physical cash services (deposit, change), and have a firm plan in place by early summer.

Near the end of November, the Village sent a letter to Ray Noonan, Scotiabank District Vice President, regarding the closure and what the ramifications on the community would be.

The letter, written on behalf of council as well as all residents and business owners in the Robson Valley, expressed “profound disappointment” at the decision to close.

The concerns listed included the layoff of seven local branch employees, the number of residents who conduct financial transactions in person, the travel and risk required to visit the “new location” when some residents do not have personal vehicles, local groups who are restricted from internet use, business deposits, access to cash and coin. 

Scotiabank has also announced that they will be removing the ATM as well. This will result in a reduction in local shopping, club/team/group/fundraising efforts, tips for those in the service sector, unavailability of cash for craft fairs, farmers markets and garage sales, reduction in sales for those who sell farm to table.

The letter to Noonan quotes Scotiabank’s guiding purpose that includes “for every future. A better tomorrow- where our customers, employees and communities all thrive – benefits everyone, including our Bank.” 

The letter states that this closure will not only not meet the needs of those who rely on the bank, in fact, it will harm them.

The letter closed with a request from Council to have Scotiabank reverse the decision to close, and to allow Council  an opportunity to discuss the situation direction with Noonan.

In a Community Update notice on Dec. 5th, the Village noted that a meeting with Scotiabank representatives will be held in the near future to discuss options to retain in-person services in McBride.

The notice also says that on Nov. 17th, the CEO and other representatives from the Prince George-based Integris Credit Union met with Village staff to begin preliminary discussions regarding the possibility of opening a Credit Union in McBride.

Mayor Gene Runtz says that although the conversation has been started, there is a lot of work to be done before Integris can step in.

“We need to show that a bank is needed, and that banking services need to remain in the community,” said Runtz. “I want to see an organization that wants to be in the community and to serve the residents.”

Early into the new year, Runtz hopes to see the formation of a Committee of Council, with a maximum of 10 members, to help address the situation. The meetings would be run in a similar format to the regular Council meetings with some portions having to be discussed behind closed doors, but most of the content being made available to the public. 

“This gives people a chance to get together and feel good about what they are doing,” said Runtz.

The Village has also reached out to other financial institutions to highlight the opportunity to provide in-person financial services to the Robson Valley. 

Scotiabank is required to hold a public open house to advise customers about the planned closure, but the Village has not yet received a date for this event.

“We are still waiting on a response from Scotiabank to address the issues as well as to schedule a meeting,” said Mayor Runtz.

At this time, Economic Development Officer Karen Dube has been named as the contact point for the Village in this matter. She can be reached at [email protected]