The BMO at Weston and John closed on Friday; the nearest Bank of Montreal branch is now at Jane and Wilson.
Two TDs, the BMO, the Scotiabank, and one Royal Bank have closed in recent years. (I could be forgetting some, and yet others have closed in Mount Dennis.) We now have only one major bank branch left: the Royal Bank at Weston and Lawrence.
While the major banks have left town, we do have at least 11 cheque-cashing and money-lending businesses, demonstrating that residents do need financial services—but not ones the major banks will provide.
The Bank of Montreal in Weston will be closing in early 2019, and ‘merging’ with the BMO at the Sheridan Mall near Jane and Wilson.
This is at least the fifth bank closure in Weston. We have already lost the RBC and TD on Jane, and the TD and Scotia on Weston Road. We now have only one of the big banks left in Weston: the RBC at Weston and Lawrence.
We do, however, have at least 11 payday loan and cheque-cashing shops.
This is infuriating.
The banking oligopoly has a government-guaranteed business: they will never, ever, go bankrupt. If their masters in Ottawa had spines, they would be held to the other side of that social contract: providing a social good, which might—heavens!—entail providing service where it isn’t always profitable.
But the payday loan shops show it can profitable to operate in Weston. Clearly, even with stiff competition and regulation, they are able to make money.
And it matters. The middle class, the documented and the accredited can bank for cheap on phones or computers. We can drive—or, hell, Uber—to Wilson and Jane. Me, I can get my mortgage broker on the phone on a weekend. You probably can too.
But pity the poor sucker—likely older and poorer—who gets paid with paper. For them, it’s two fares and 52 minutes on the bus or 70 minutes of walking in the snow. And that’s how Usury-4-U stays afloat: $21 to cash a cheque is outrageous—but it’s a bargain for the bricklayer getting home at 7, faced with $6.50 in fares and another hour on the bus.
Even if you don’t care about the less lucky, you should care about bank closures. Walkability pays. Walkable neighbourhoods are livable neighbourhoods, and people want to buy and rent in them.
There’s nothing inevitable about this. Banks have regulators, regulators have ministers, and ministers have electors. Ahmed Hussen’s phone number is (416) 656-2526.