Remember when we used to have service in Ontario? Remember when ‘service centres’ had staff who pumped your gas, checked your oil and cleaned your windshield, employing piles of people who would later become Exxon CEOs, because pumping gas at minimum wage really sucks? So now we do their job, and increasingly take over the jobs of other service personnel, including the checkout people at Home Depot and Wal-Mart.
Remember when you could call a support line for any Canadian corporation, and get a Canadian on the other end of the line?
Remember when ‘health service’ was a service? We paid taxes, and hospitals kept us alive and well. Remember when the educational service provided us with schools and teachers?
Remember when the ‘banking service’ was an actual service? By definition, banks served their customers and, if they did a good job, the bank’s stocks would increase in value, and their shareholders would be as happy as the young mom who opened the first bank account for her child.
This last is of particular interest to me, since signs appeared on our door announcing that CIBC is closing its Bloomfield branch in September, and removing the ATM.
The shock waves were felt throughout the village, and I suspect even the friendly, competent and professional girls at the branch did not know this was going down until they arrived to start what should have been a regular day of serving their clients.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have a very keen interest in this, as County Magazine has been a tenant of CIBC since 1984 and, in typical fashion, the folks in the Ivory Tower at Commerce Court in Toronto haven’t yet told me what they have planned for me. A note on the door, or possibly a Death Squad drive-by?
Now back to the main point: Service is disappearing in Ontario, and most notably in rural Ontario.
I have seen the enemy, and it is not us. Corporations and the provincial government combine to attack the support services and the very lifestyle of rural areas. The County is not the only area under fire. It’s happening everywhere … outside of the GTA that is.
We already know that Wynne’s government considers rural Ontario to be ‘unsustainable’ and ‘unserviceable’. This has been said in many ways, even in the legislature. The banks have bought into this, with RBC closing its South Front Street branch in Belleville, and CIBC closing its Deseronto branch – forcing people to drive to Belleville or Napanee, or to find another bank.
Surprisingly, at the same time people are moving from the city to the bucolic paradise of the County, their services are being demolished. An aging retired population with a hospital pared down and in jeopardy, and a new one promised maybe sometime, somewhere, of some size, at some cost, housing some beds maybe, and some other things like – ugh! – staff. (Ministries love brick and mortar, but don’t care much for people.)
You didn’t bring it here, and it didn’t follow you here, but welcome to the world of the forgotten, useless, powerless, unserviceables and dispensables. We are the untouchables – the lowest caste in Ontarian society.
On the economic/political scale, we are alligator poo. Bet they didn’t tell you that when you left the city!
So how do we combat the enemy? Good luck. Because genuine interest in protecting and preserving our land and lifestyle carries no weight with those who only see us on paper: A few dimes to be saved on staff, or open land suitable only for wind turbines or housing developments.
Take a look around. Here in Bloomfield we’re losing our councillor, our school and our bank. Serving a community is going the way of the horse and wagon (though in County fashion, we still have a few of those!).
And take note: This is a modern wave – a movement by corporations and government to use and abuse us. It’s kind of like domestic beatings which escalate into rape. Strong language? Well, you’re community will likely be next.
How do you combat an enemy who only sees the world in terms of money, as in the cases cited above, and many more? This is not the way the County was built, and not the way it will survive.
Look at our CIBC, a situation not set in stone pending a June 15 meeting at Bloomfield Town Hall with the District VP.
If the people in the Tower actually stood outside and saw the never-ending activity at this branch, they would count tens of thousands of transactions. The bank machine alone does 24-hour business non-stop, often with line-ups out the door during tourist season. I also note that CIBC bought the building in 1955, and probably paid cash. Unless the tellers are making $250,000 a year (maybe, I didn’t ask) for their three-day work week, common sense would say this is ‘easy money’. No mortgage, possibly two or three part-time wages, and thousands of transactions. Call it County thinking, but even for city bureaucrats that looks like a pretty sweet deal.
Their argument, according to the Notice of Closure poster, is that Picton branch is open to “serve” you. (Sorry, the quote marks are mine, indicating four sarcastic fingers in the air.)
Really? That’s the mark of someone who has only seen Prince Edward County on a map and a financial spreadsheet! Bloomfield to Picton branch at the top of the Town Hill in tourist season? That’s a two-hour excursion on a good day! Fight the traffic, fight for parking, fight to get across the street, stand in a line even bigger after Bloomfield closes, then repeat the journey. Decisions are made by those who have never walked the walk. Perhaps the big-wigs should spend just one hour of their expensive time watching the tellers at work, and noting the genuine service they provide.
We’ve launched a petition at County Magazine, and have 100 signatures at time of this writing. Some signers are so irate, they take an extra line to vent their angst. Even if you don’t bank at CIBC, make a statement against this corporate destruction of community services.
Next, it could be your Post Office, since Toronto wizards consider it a short subway ride to pick up your mail in Mississauga.
Because everybody has a subway, right?
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