Businesses close for G-20

Banks will close more than three dozen branches in or near the concrete, fenced-in security perimeter during the G20 summit in Toronto.

TORONTO — Banks will close more than three dozen branches in or near the concrete, fenced-in security perimeter during the G20 summit in Toronto.

They are among several businesses that will shut down during the gathering of world leaders later this month.

Some firms will close entirely while others will have employees work from home, but IT experts don’t expect that will cause Internet problems.

The CN Tower and The Art Gallery of Ontario will close their doors and the curtain will fall on performances of Rock of Ages and Mamma Mia! A Toronto Blue Jays home series against the Phillies will move to Philadelphia. The banks cite safety of customers and employees.

They fear financial institutions could be targeted by some of the protesters who descend on the city. Anti-G20 slogans such as “Stop G20” and “Resist G20” were spray-painted at several banks and ATMs in Toronto in late May.

“A lot of the banks are looking at having staff not in branches, but some of their corporate staff work at home or work at alternative sites,” said Maura Drew-Lytle, spokeswoman for the Canadian Bankers Association.

The banks have business continuity plans in place so they can quickly move certain functions to alternative sites, she said. Royal Bank of Canada (TSX:RY), Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO), Toronto-Dominion (TSX:TD), Scotiabank (TSX:BNS) and CIBC (TSX:CM) will all close branches around the zone starting on the Thursday before the June 26-27 summit. They will re-open on the Monday.

Customers are advised to go to other branches or use telephone or Internet banking. Royal Bank spokeswoman Judy Dobbs said customers should also think about accessing safety deposit boxes before branches close if they need to retrieve passports for vacations.

BMO spokesman Ralph Marranca doesn’t how many bank employees would work from home. But his bank has enough capacity to handle the demand on its system, he said.

Other experts don’t expect networks to be strained by more people working from home.

“There may be more people working from home but you know in a lot of cases people are just using the Internet or the network (the way) they usually do,” said Bell Canada spokesman Jeff Meerman.

He expects more cellphone roaming on Bell’s wireless network but Bell has added capacity for that.

Bernard Courtois, president of the Information Technology Association of Canada, said the wired networks people use at home won’t get overloaded by the G20.

It’s also unlikely that protesters would all be on their cellphones at the same time, he said from Ottawa.

Wireless companies have been told signal jammers might be used by police, but experts say any interference likely wouldn’t last long.

Canadian Telework Association president Bob Fortier said from Ottawa that if everyone in Toronto started working from home, it might put a significant strain on IT infrastructure.

But since only a small area of the city is involved, the impact should be minimal, he said.

“They’re not using their systems at the office but they’re using the ones at home so it might be a trade-off,” said Fortier.

People will also have to work out from home, if they belong to The Wellington Club Extreme Fitness outlet. It will close at least June 25-27, causing “a major inconvenience” for members of the club, said general manager Naresh Persaud.

Whether they close or stay open, The Retail Council of Canada said retailers are worried about fewer customers and rowdy protesters.

“A big concern for retailers is the potential for damage to their stores,” said spokesman Mark Beazley.

Five major Toronto mayoral candidates have signed a letter calling on the federal government to reverse its decision to deny compensation for small businesses for vandalism or loss of business as a result of the G20.

Joe Pantalone, Rocco Rossi, George Smitherman, Giorgio Mammoliti and Rob Ford have all signed the letter.

Candidate Sarah Thompson has sent her own communication that is along the same lines as the other candidates’ letter.

“We are still hopeful that the prime minister will find a way to respond and protect Canadians living in Toronto, before, during and after the G20,” Coun. Adam Vaughan, who represents the area affected by the summit, said Tuesday.