By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Even as they faced over 100 hostile Stoney Creek residents, TD Canada Trust officials remained adamant the downtown King Street East branch will close in October.
“It comes down to a business decision,” said Ron McInnis, regional senior vice-president for TD Canada Trust. “It was a very tough decision.”
About 120 people faced off against McInnis, and Jiuliano Ciardelli, district vice-president for the Greater Hamilton District, at the Stoney Creek Legion Sept. 25 for just over an hour, believing they could convince bank officials to reverse their announcement to close the branch on Oct. 27. When McInnis said bank officials were there only to provide customers with options on how to continue to bank at the TD, and they were not going to halt the bank’s closing, most residents became irate, with some even walking out.
“That bank is my family,” said Erica MacLeod, who lives nearby. “When my husband was sick, the TD bank staff came over on Christmas Eve and brought us presents.
“I’m not a number,” she said. “My son signed up for a bank account. Now I will have to say too bad.”
Mathew Marchis, whose family has lived inStoney Creek since 1954, said the TD Canada Trust made a decision without talking to its customers first.
“We don’t need any more things taken away from this community,” said Marchis, who has banked at the TD for 34 years.
Marchis helped to force TD Canada Trust to hold the public meeting, after sending a letter to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. He said the meeting should have been held before a decision was made by the bank. The FCAC, which had two people representing the agency, urged the bank to hold the public session. But Lisa Goodfellow, senior compliance officer for the FCAC, said the agency doesn’t get involved in a bank’s business decisions.
McInnis acknowledged to the angry crowd TD Canada Trust was holding the meeting now was because the FCAC insisted on it.
Bank officials announced theKing Street East branch, which has been opened since 1942, would close in October early this summer. McInnis said the bank will still have an ATM at the King Street location.
“You guys look bad, terribly bad,” said Greg MacLeod. “You are blowing it.”
McInnis acknowledged to Bob McDougall, who owns McDougall’s Garage nearby, that the bank wasn’t losing money. He said the decision to close the branch was based on walk-in traffic, location, population trends, and costs.
“This is a family bank, and you are taking it away from them,” said McDougall.
McInnis said bank officials have been talking toHamiltoncity staff about donating the building to the municipality for community use. McInnis quashed a rumour the building was going to become a Tim Hortons.
Stoney Creekcouncillor Brad Clark also tried to pry the reasoning from McInnis to close the branch. But Clark eventually gave up.
“You just came and flipped the bird to the community,” said Clark. “You have made the decision. There is no opportunity to sit down and change it.”
Hamilton East-Stoney Creek NDP MPP Paul Miller admonished bank officials for ignoring the wishes of its customers simply to save some money.
“This is about the people that helped to build your corporation,” he said. “This is about the people that helped put the TD bank where it is today. How quick you forget how their little saving grew your corporation into a multi-national corporation. Where does the buck stop? Where does the profit stop? Where do the people come first?”
Businessman Ed Strecker, who is also chair of the Stoney Creek Business Improvement Area, says TD Canada Trust leaving the downtown, sends the wrong message to potential stores that want to locate in the area.
“If there is no TD bank, if they can’t make money in downtown Stoney Creek, it makes it more and more difficult to attract businesses,” said Strecker, who co-owns Britannia Cleaners, and has banked at TD Canada Trust since 1962. “We need help. We don’t need people pulling out.”
Bank officials offered to assist residents to bank at other locations, including at the corner ofGreen Roadand Highway 8, and Queenston andCentennial Parkway. McInnis added a new TD Canada Trust branch will be available at the soon-to-be constructed plaza in 2014 at Fifty Road and the QEW. Ciardelli also suggested people bank online or by telephone. But residents sarcastically laughed, and threw the ideas back at them. They said seniors don’t want to use a computer to bank, and they don’t have vehicles to drive the over two kilometers to the other branches. Some people asked if the bank was going to provide seniors with free bus passes. McInnis said no.
“I refuse to go to the Queenston branch,” said Jerry Martin, a resident since 1980. He said the traffic was terrible, the parking awful, and the service atrocious at the branch. He suggested TD Canada Trust officials close that branch, and keep the King Street bank open.
“It’s a bad decision,” said Martin, after the meeting. “I think a lot of people will be going to the Royal Bank.”