Nova Scotia

Birthplace of priests who pioneered credit unions will lose its branch

The credit union in Margaree, N.S., is closing. The community was the home of Father Jimmy Tompkins and Father Moses Coady, two of the founders of the credit union movement in Atlantic Canada in the 1930s.

Credit union in Margaree, N.S., will close permanently July 26

Margaree, N.S., resident Simon Leblanc shared this photo from the 1960s of the community's credit union. Father Pelletier of St. Michael's Catholic Church is seen doing business with Alex Miller at the Margaree Credit Union. (Submitted by Simon Leblanc)

One of the oldest credit unions in Nova Scotia will close for good in July.

The Margaree Credit Union opened in 1936 in Margaree, the home of Father Jimmy Tompkins and Father Moses Coady, two of the founders of the credit union movement in Atlantic Canada in the 1930s.

The Margaree branch is now part of the East Coast Credit Union network. It will merge this summer with one in Inverness, about 35 kilometres away.

"We made the very tough decision to look at consolidating the branch in Margaree into our Inverness branch," said Ken Shea, the president and CEO of the network.

He called the closure a business decision. Many credit union members are looking for more digital services, he said, while at the same time there's been a "significant decline" in the number of branch transactions.

"Inverness is a bit of a growing area and the Inverness branch needed to be upgraded and updated. It would also give us capacity to further invest in digital because we know that the trend for digital is only going to get bigger."

Shea said two staff members will move to the Inverness branch. Three others will not have jobs, although he said the credit union is looking for opportunities for them.

Laurie Cranton represents the Margaree area on Inverness County Council. (Municipality of the County of Inverness)

The municipal councillor for the area said the closure flies in the face of what the credit unions represent.

"When credit unions were established some 50 years ago they were established because of a need in the community," said Laurie Cranton, "and some of that need still exists." 

Cranton said the closure will create a hardship for seniors who don't do online banking, and some may not be able to make the drive to Inverness.

"I did hear a stat quoted by a local member of the credit union that said 70 percent of their customers do their business online, but yet there's still 30 percent out there that use the credit union," said Cranton.

An undated photo shows the Father Finlay Credit Union in South West Margaree, N.S. (Submitted by Simon Leblanc)

But Shea defended the decision.

"I think if Father Jimmy Tompkins was here today, he would be looking at the situation and saying, 'How can we serve our members the best?'" said Shea. "We feel the members will be getting an enhanced experience in Inverness."

The Margaree Credit Union will close July 26.

About the Author

George Mortimer is a longtime reporter in Cape Breton.

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