“I do not manage all the citizens of Quebec. I manage 4.3 million members, “said Desjardins Group President Guy Cormier.
During his visit to a parliamentary committee on access to local financial services in the regions, Mr. Cormier reaffirmed that Desjardins is not a “public or parapublic enterprise”, which must offer financial services to all Quebecers .
In Monday’s Le Soleil , Desjardins’s big boss argued that the institution was doing its part and that Desjardins could not be blamed for the economic vitality of the regions of Quebec.
For the Parti Québécois spokesperson on regional development, Sylvain Gaudreault, Desjardins does not have greater social responsibility than other banks for the economic vitality of rural communities.
“Historically, the creation of Desjardins was done in the regions of Quebec, all over the territory and it was to democratize access to financial services, which the banks did not do. I think we need to challenge Desjardins, who are at the base, and we will do it. I believe that these values and principles must be combined with the reality of today, “he agreed.
When asked about this, Prime Minister Couillard simply maintained that he wanted to see the financial institutions present in the regions. “It’s not just the ATM. It is also access, for our small entrepreneurs and farmers, to firms like Desjardins or the National Bank, or others, “he said.
“Not a public service”
To elected officials, Guy Cormier insisted that even though 7% of Desjardins Group members still use ATMs, the cooperative had made the choice to maintain 2,000 wickets in operation, 30% of which are located in localities under 2000 inhabitants. “We are not a vendor of ATMs,” said Cormier.
“Desjardins is not a public service,” he said, criticizing at the same time the absence of banks to the work of the parliamentary commission. It should be noted, however, that a representative of the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA) was heard. He argued that banks also offered different ways to make financial services accessible in the regions.
The Parti Québécois would like Desjardins, but also the banks, to get along with Canada Post so that residents can meet employees of a financial institution and enjoy financial services.
Desjardins has already discussed such a scenario with Canada Post in 2012, but the federal government decided that it was not in its priorities, explained Cormier. On the CBA side, it is argued that a working group in Ottawa has already looked at the issue and reached the same conclusion.
Should the co-op restart Canada Post? “Absolutely not,” said Mr. Cormier, mentioning that Desjardins had meanwhile found other solutions to meet the needs of its members in the region.