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Scotiabank plans town hall for Feb. 9

Bank says meeting will answer questions regarding Pemberton branch’s transition into Whistler location 
Bank says meeting will answer questions regarding Pemberton branch’s transition into Whistler location.

Scotiabank has planned a telephone town hall meeting for Pemberton residents in the midst of its decision to close the branch in July and amalgamate its services into the Whistler branch in Creekside.

The meeting is slated for Tuesday, Feb. 9 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. To join by phone, dial 1-888-465-5079 toll free for English or 1-866-229-4144 toll free for French or English. Punch in 7543509# to join the call.

In an email, Scotiabank spokesperson Daniela Da Silva said that holding such a meeting is standard practice when making such a move.

“Consulting the community is part of Scotiabank’s usual process when closing a branch and we are working closely with the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada to ensure all relevant guidelines are followed,” she wrote. “It is a very important part of this process and we are committed to addressing customer and community questions and concerns to make the transition as smooth as possible.

“Scotiabank has a long-standing relationship with the community in Pemberton and we want to assure you that our support of the community will continue.”

Da Silva added that the bank’s “leaders for the Pemberton and Whistler area will be present to answer questions, hear concerns and share how Scotiabank plans to support the community through and after this transition.”  

In response to a question regarding whether the bank would reconsider its decision, Da Silva sent a statement nearly identical to a question regarding why Scotiabank is closing the branch from a prior correspondence, complete with a reference to Pemberton being in “British Colombia.”

“Our primary focus at this time is to communicate any changes to all affected customers and work with them to ensure a smooth transition,” reads the only new part of the statement.

The town hall comes at a time when more than 2,250 people have signed a petition asking the bank to reverse its decision, citing concerns ranging from the impact on remote communities with spotty internet access to the impact on the local economy. Pemberton’s population as of 2016 was just shy of 2,600.

Natalie Livermore, who launched the petition on, had mixed feelings surrounding the call. While she’s encouraged that the bank is hosting an event, she anticipates the telephone call-in format will dull the effects of the sentiments. 

“I’m happy that they’re doing the engagement that should have been done, but I feel like without having that proper town hall meeting, without having all those people and those faces, you really kind of lose what a town hall meeting can do,” she said. “What takes away from this community engagement, is the format.”

While Livermore is in Whistler twice a week for work and can access banking services while there, the fire in her fight is fuelled by those who will feel far more adverse effects.

“I want to be more supportive of the people this is going to affect,” she said. “In the community setting, it’s not necessarily just about me. It’s about those who are going to be most affected and we need to stand behind them as well.”

During Village of Pemberton council’s regular meeting on Feb. 2, Mayor Mike Richman reported on a call he held with one of the bank’s vice presidents that he described as “frustrating.” The call followed a letter that the municipality had sent expressing its concerns.

“There seems to be no opening to reconsider the decision of keeping our branch open. I was asked by the VP to provide some suggestions or options to help with the transition,” he said. “I said, ‘Well, if you’re not here to talk about reconsideration and you’re looking for suggestions on the transitions, my response is I’m the mayor and you are a banker. You come up with the solutions to help our community through this. I can’t help you with that.’” 

For her part, Livermore plans to keep pushing until there’s some finality.

“I like to remain hopeful, but it’s kind of like David and Goliath, right? Until the door actually closes, it’s worth trying,” she said. “We can only give it our best and see what happens.”