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Credit union won’t back down

The Coastal Community Credit Union board won’t reconsider its decision to close its branches on Cortes Island and in Alert Bay and Sointula despite pleas from its own members to take a second look.

The financial institution’s 80,000 plus members, as well as representatives from the three affected communities, travelled to Nanaimo last Wednesday for the credit union’s annual general meeting. The group presented the board with a resolution to hold a vote of the credit union’s members to rescind its decision to close the branches, planned for July 5.

Cortes Island director Noba Anderson said she was shocked when the board announced it would not reconsider its decision, as it appears to contravene the credit union act.

“If 300 members request that an issue be put to the membership for a vote, the board must comply,” Anderson said. “Under this provision, Coastal Community Credit Union was then served with a resolution with 944 signatures, calling for a special vote of the members to rescind the branch closure decision. What we received in turn at the annual general meeting was an unequivocal message from the CEO, Adrian Legin, that the board would not reconsider their decision.”

Anderson said what was most disturbing was the fact Legin made that announcement before the board had yet to sit down and meet that day. Legin’s justification was that because it was an operational matter, the board was not bound to follow the direction of its members.

“At this point they’re saying they aren’t going to budge,” Anderson said. “We’re going to go on a strategy call, the leaders of the three communities, to determine next steps. I need to find some other way of making sure my constituents and my businesses are served. There are ways of providing non-branch services. We’re going to have to look at what our options are if the credit union pulls the plug.”

Anderson said what’s particularly distressing is the fact there was no consultation or communication from Coastal Community that it was struggling financially and was considering pulling its operations on Cortes.

“It’s the indecency of a member-based, member-owned institution making a decision without engaging its membership that I find so abominable,” Anderson said. “A credit union should put its members above profit. If it was a private business and they closed down, so be it.”

Anderson said in the coming weeks she will be asking her constituents how the closure of the credit union will affect them. Elected officials in Alert Bay and Sointula will be doing the same thing, in order to compile an impact assessment report, something Anderson said Coastal Community Credit Union never did.

“They have given us nothing,” Anderson said. “No numbers, no analysis, no basis for calculations, no redacted staff reports, no rationale for lack of consultation – nothing. We asked what will happen to the buildings and land in the centre of our respective villages. We asked if they would commit to consult with us on these assets. They again did not answer our questions. All they said is that they were open to ideas.”

Coastal Community Credit Union has said it will not divulge financial information because of privacy statutes.

Legin said the decision to close the branches on Cortes, and in Sointula and Alert Bay was based on comprehensive reviews and assessments of its services.

“Despite considerable efforts in the last several years, these specific branches have not been financially viable,” Legin said. “In the interests of all our members, we determined that the level of subsidization being provided is not justifiable over the long term.”

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