Rural affairs minister doesn't see way to help Hartland if bank wants to go

News that Scotiabank will close its branch in Hartland — the community's only bank — raises questions about what government policies are needed to keep the province's rural lifestyle viable — if that's even possible.

Political Panel's discussion focuses on closure of last remaining bank in Hartland

Joining Terry Seguin on week's Political Panel was Andrew Harvey from the Liberal Party, Green Party Leader David Coon, Jennifer MacKenzie of the NDP, Jeff Carr from the Progressive Conservatives and Kris Austin, leader of the People's Alliance. (CBC )

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What can be done to preserve New Brunswick's rural way of life?

That was the subject of debate on this week's Political Panel in light of news Hartland is going to lose its only bank.

Richard Orser, president of the Central Carleton Chamber of Commerce, said this week that Scotiabank advised residents the branch will close Oct. 4.

In addition to disrupting service for residents, the closure will affect more than 80 small businesses in that part of Carleton County, he said.

The news raises questions about what government policies are needed to keep the province's rural lifestyle viable and whether that's even possible.

Andrew Harvey, the minister of rural affairs, said Scotiabank's decision is unfortunate, but there's not much the provincial government can do about it.

"I'm not sure that's a role for the provincial government to be managing banks and where their locations are going to be across the province," he said.

"Our role as a government is to make sure the economy is strong and growing and the services are there for people, from a government point of view."

PC MLA Jeff Carr argued that the Liberal government should work with other parties to come up with a concrete strategy to improve the quality of life for rural New Brunswickers. 

Coon sees potential in credit unions

Hartland residents may not even be "left with an ATM machine to do their normal banking, so there's a considerable amount of concern," he said.

David Coon, leader of the New Brunswick Green Party, said he thinks the government could work to strengthen credit unions, "so that they become as powerful and useful financial service institutions in rural communities, so that the do feel comfortable."

Jennifer MacKenzie, leader of the NDP, argued that that the should be a role for government to ensure that people living in rural communities have access to the services they need.

Kris Austin, leader of the People's Alliance said he felt it was "kind of ironic" that the provincial government could give $9 million to TD Bank to help open up a business service centre, but say that their "hands are tied" when banks pull out of rural areas.