As a fairly newly arrived – or, more accurately, returned – resident of Queensborough (in particular) and rural Eastern Ontario (in general), I find myself observing and thinking a fair bit about the state of the local small towns. Much more than I did in my years as a resident of Montreal, though I’ve always had an interest in smaller places – and so, whenever Raymond and I would travel, I liked to analyze what made some small towns prosperous and attractive and others depressing and sad. I long ago reached the conclusion that a flourishing arts community and an interest in heritage preservation are two key factors in boosting a town’s fortunes and all-round economic health – well, that, and a willingness by local residents to support local businesses.
But speaking of local businesses, tonight I want to tell you about an unfortunate situation in the small town of Marmora, which is about 18 miles southwest of Queensborough (not far from the border with Peterborough County) out on Highway 7. Marmora’s similar in size and temperament to Madoc and Tweed, which are the other two towns right smack in the centre of tall, narrow Hastings County, and obviously every resident of this central Hastings area has a vested interest in seeing all three of those pretty and historic little towns do well.
But one of Canada’s big banks is not doing its part on that front, at least when it comes to Marmora. TD Canada Trust, the only bank in Marmora – where it has been operating for more than 60 years, right at the main intersection downtown – announced a short while ago that it is going to close the branch and merge it with one in Havelock, a town of similar size about 11 miles west across the Hastings-Peterborough county line. You can read the full story by Margriet Kitchen, the Central Hastings News‘s Marmora reporter, here.
So this development will mean that Marmora will have no bank at all. And a town without a bank is – well, it’s not a good situation. Not good at all. I understand that Marmora’s politicians are protesting the closure vehemently, as well they should. I hope they make a big stink about it and get everyone in town involved, and will shame TD into reversing its decision.
Now, I say that with sadness, because I myself have banked at TD all of my adult life and have always found it to be a well-run and consumer-friendly operation. The folks at the little TD branch in our town, Madoc, couldn’t be friendlier or more helpful, and it’s a pleasure to go in there. (Though I usually do my banking online or through the branch’s two ATMs.) But I have to say that this decision by TD corporate – I am dead certain it wasn’t the people at the Marmora branch itself who decided to close it – is a genuinely terrible one, and gives the bank a big black eye.
I mean, what will people who don’t have cars do if they need to visit a bank? As Margriet Kitchen’s article notes, there are a couple of ATMs in Marmora, but neither of them is TD-affiliated, so TD customers who use them to deposit or withdraw cash have to pay extra fees. And besides – the people who need, or at least prefer, to do their banking face-to-face with a teller are, let’s face it, usually older and less willing or able to use ATMs, let alone do telephone or online banking. And it’s just those more vulnerable people that this great big bank is punishing by trying to save a small amount of money in closing one little branch.
And what about business-owners in Marmora? Will they have to drive to Havelock or Madoc at the end of a long day of work in order to make their deposits? Apparently they will. Which will be a disincentive to anyone who might be considering starting up a shop, restaurant or office in that town. Why would you set up a business to a place that doesn’t even have a bank?
For shame, TD. It is to all Canadians’ benefit that our small towns not only survive, but flourish. You should be doing your part.
Ah, but: tomorrow I will have some small-town good news.