Archive for the ‘Co-op Advocacy’ Category
On Wednesday, April 21, over 30 MPPs, 20 government staff and public policy makers, along with 100 co-op leaders and stakeholders, came together for On Co-op’s annual Queen’s Park Reception. The reception continues to raise the profile of the sector through communicating key messages to government about the need for and benefits of developing a mutually beneficial partnership.
One of the main goals of the reception is to put a face to the sector – to show the strength and diversity of Ontario’s co-operatives. Our advocacy efforts have faced the challenge of building awareness of who we are, what we do and what we can do if a public/co-operative collaboration existed. This year, 100 co-op representatives came and showed just how well one sector that crosses many industries can come together to form one, unified voice!
We were also pleasantly surprised at the number of new co-operators who attended, proving there is great interest and dedication for all of us to continue to work together towards our mutual goals. There was plenty of opportunity to learn about other co-ops and create what we hope will be valuable connections to others in the sector for the future.
We would like to extend a warm thank you to everyone who came. We truly appreciate the time you spent speaking with elected members of parliament and their staff, and we are very interested in getting some feedback on those you spoke with, as well as on the reception in general. Please send any feedback to Audrey Aczel at firstname.lastname@example.org, On Co-op’s Public Affairs Manager. We’ll see you there again next year!
Despite all the successes and extensive history of co-operatives in Ontario, we are still facing challenges in terms of regulation, lack of capital investment and limited public knowledge and understanding. All of these challenges greatly hinder the potential and future growth of co-operatives in Ontario. In order to address these and other challenges, the Ontario Co-operative Association, together with its sector representatives, have been advocating for the implementation of a provincial Co-operatives Secretariat since 2004.
We had found tremendous support from the former Minister Ted McMeekin, who proposed Resolution#33, which passed in December of 2006. The resolution had called for the investigation and establishment of a provincial Co-operatives Secretariat; however, after four years and almost 100 meetings with MPP’s, Cabinet Ministers and staffers, nothing has changed!
We NEED your help to move the resolution forward! What better time to do this then in a pre-election year! As a stakeholder of Ontario co-operatives, we are seeking your support through becoming a co-op advocate in our campaign for the establishment of a provincial Co-operatives Secretariat!
Advocates show that co-operatives have a unified voice, while raising key issues and challenges facing the sector, as well as creating opportunities for our government to understand our contribution to the social and economic fabric of our province, and the importance of a mutually beneficial partnership. Advocates put a real face to the Ontario Co-operative sector! There are currently co-op advocates covering 21 electoral ridings, and our goal is to have at least one in each of the 107 ridings.
We need advocates to represent the co-op sector, as well as showcase the added-value your co-operative brings to the community in which it exists by:
•Meeting with the elected provincial Member of Parliament in your riding;
•Inviting your MPP to tour your co-operative;
•Participating in our letter-writing campaigns; and
•Attending the annual Queen’s Park Reception
Ontario’s co-operatives invest and reinvest in people and our communities. Isn’t it time our government invested in us?? We cannot do this alone. Become a co-op advocate – meet with our elected representatives and be the voice of the co-operative community!
If you are interested in becoming a co-op advocate, or would like to learn more, visit: http://www.ontario.coop/government
Or contact Audrey Aczel, Public Affairs Manager at Ontario Co-operative Association, at 519.763.8271 ext. 24 or via email at email@example.com
We can make a difference!
For over five years, On Co-op, together with sector representatives, have been advocating for a public and co operative partnership with our provincial government. We received tremendous support in December 2006, when Resolution #33, calling for the establishment of a provincial Co-operatives Secretariat, was unanimously passed in the legislature.
However, since then and despite our continuous efforts, nothing has moved forward. We need representatives from Ontario’s co-operatives to be co op advocates and help us campaign for the creation of a provincial Co-operatives Secretariat. Being a pre-election year, there is no better time to present a unified voice to our elected Members of Provincial Parliament and electoral candidates.
Co-op advocates can represent the sector, the successes and the challenges we face, through: meeting with MPPs in their riding, participating in letter-writing campaigns, attending the annual Queen’s Park reception and inviting their MPP to tour their co-operative.
There is little time required on behalf of the advocate; On Co-op will do most of the prep and follow-up work. We simply need interested individuals who will learn the key messages and a little about the MPP they will be meeting.
For more information, visit http://www.ontario.coop/government, or contact Audrey Aczel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 519.763.8271 x.24.
A few of us here at On Co-op had the chance to hear David Suzuki speak Friday morning as part of impact! The Co-operators Youth Conference for Sustainability Leadership in Guelph.
A committed and passionate champion for the environment and sustainable living, Suzuki is not afraid to ask hard questions and make serious demands, even of those who invite him to speak.
From a co-op perspective, Suzuki really got my attention when he challenged the value of triple bottom line accounting, that in his view, elevates the value of the economy to the same level as the biosphere. Suzuki distilled the practice into an image: the intersection of three equal sized circles representing economics, the environment and community.
As a counter argument to this image, Suzuki spoke of three circles of decreasing size, one inside the other. The largest circle is the biosphere, followed by society, within which lies the human invention of economy. For Suzuki, such a model represents a way of thinking that will lead to truly sustainable living, since it underscores the fact that all life is enclosed within the biosphere. For him, the environment is not just more important than the economy, it supersedes it: without a healthy biosphere, human society can not exist to create an economy.
This point is well-taken and Suzuki uses it forcefully to rail against governments and businesses when they argue that sustainability projects undercut economic imperatives. What Suzuki is arguing for, and has been for over 40 years, is that we need to change the way we think of the economy: we need to, as he suggests, stop anthropomorphizing it, treating it like a living, breathing and intimidating creature demanding an unending supply of offerings in the form of cash bailouts and eco-system destruction.
The issue I have with Suzuki’s model is that it’s too steep of an adjustment, in practical terms, for most people. The triple bottom line approach currently used by socially-responsible businesses is an important step towards changing people’s minds about how we all navigate and create the world we live in. As the current recession has shown us, old habits and beliefs die hard. Socially responsible enterprises, like co-ops, and especially people who run, use and are members of them, need to be the model for a new way of living that respects the earth and all those who inhabit it.
Those of us in the co-operative sector understand the value of looking at economics differently. The co-op movement is fundamentally about doing business differently, and the 7 co-operative principles outline a way of doing business, and of living, that pre-dates and far outstrips the current interest in corporate social responsibility and triple bottom line accounting.
For many of us, Suzuki’s argument is resonant: people do need to think differently about how they fit into the economy (or how the economy fits into them) and understand that they can have a serious impact (positive or negative) on the way we all live. Sustainability, be it in the form of renewable energy, local job retention, affordable quality daycare, safe and affordable housing, local food, or the myriad other ways co-ops are creating and sustaining strong communities, is fundamental to the co-op model.
Post a comment and let us know what your co-op is doing to make economic, ecological and social change.
There are numerous co-ops in Ontario that are challenging economic, social, and ecological realities by working towards a better world for all of us. Check them out by searching On Co-op’s e-directory.
The 50% Rule
The 50% rule limits the amount of business that co-ops can do with non-members.
To some people in the co-op sector, the 50% rule is a major part of what it means to do business co-operatively. To others, it’s an impediment to a co-op’s ability to do business, grow and compete in the global marketplace.
The following positions for eliminating the 50% rule have been identified:
- Only two provinces – Ontario and Québec – have the provision in their respective Acts. The other provinces have not reported any disadvantage arising from the omission of the rule.
- Co-operatives have changed since 1971. To compete in the global marketplace, co-ops are increasingly involved in joint ventures and investments in other businesses. This rule can inhibit or constrain such opportunities.
- Co-operatives are democratically controlled businesses, where no member owner can have more than one vote. This fundamental and unique requirement is enough to distinguish co-ops from other forms of business enterprise.
- Auditors in some co-operatives have difficulty defining what “business with members” means (i.e., do you include only input or output or both?).
The following positions for retaining the 50% rule have also been identified:
- Co-operatives define themselves as democratic organizations, primarily focused on providing goods and services to their members. The rule is an essential part of that definition – if less than 50% of business is with members, then that definition is not really being met.
- Governments have “recognized” this definition by treating co-operatives differently from other businesses, mainly in regulating the way they raise capital. Co-ops may lose this treatment, to the extent that they become less distinct from other forms of business enterprise.
- The rule provides a means to deal with “phony” co-operatives – those that attempt to use the advantages of the co-op model for private gain.
- The rule is an effective way for co-operatives to clearly distinguish themselves from other forms of business enterprise – for purposes of obtaining different treatment by government, and for promoting co-operative participation to prospective members.
What’s at Stake?
People who argue that the elimination of the 50% rule would say that its prohibitive nature will eventually force co-operatives to change to a business corporation model, just so they can keep up and compete in the global marketplace. Those that argue for the retention of the rule would say that it reinforces the member mandate of co-ops – the fear is that without the rule, co-operatives and all that they stand for, will disappear.
Tell Us What You Think
Any change to the 50% rule is significant, no matter which side of the debate you find yourself. Leave a comment and let us know what the 50% rule means for your co-op.
In a recent article, the Executive Director of the Canadian Worker Co-op Federation Hazel Corcoran adds her voice to counter misinformation circulating about co-ops. Critiquing a recent article by Joseph Heath, Corcoran actually finds comfort in the current onslaught of anti-co-op rhetoric.
Responding to what she considers to be an especially ireful, and false, statement by Heath, Corcoran counters that the vitriol aimed at co-ops is a sure sign of their ascendancy:
“As Gandhi said: ‘First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.’ If we believe this, then we are three-quarters of the way there!”
Such a response does not emerge from passivity, but is the outcome of a long-term wholehearted (and whole-minded) approach to co-op advocacy, an approach that does not relent in the face of misinformation and ignorance.
As I’ve noted before in this forum, education is the key to strengthening the co-op community: educating our members and everyone else of the value, potential and successes of co-ops here and around the world. Engaging the debate with facts and conviction is the only way we’re going to succeed.
If you want to help change people’s minds about co-ops, contact me and let’s make co-ops work for everyone.
What better time to get the message out about the value, diversity and strength of the co-op sector than during Co-op Week, October 11-17, 2009!
I encourage everyone who really believes in the power of co-ops the great work co-ops do for your community to commit to speaking out and spreading the word during Co-op Week.
Write a letter your to local paper, contact your local MPP to tell her or him about the role of co-ops in the community, talk to your friends and colleagues about your co-op, or attend a co-op event and celebrate co-operation!
Keep coming back to learn more about what you can do to make your voice heard during Co-op Week 2009. While you’re at it, visit us on Facebook.
As part of On Co-op’s mission to lead, cultivate and connect the Ontario co-op sector, we have created outreach materials to help you get active this co-op week and beyond. Please contact me to learn more.
Goldhawk Live on Roger’s Televsion will be hosting an all candidates debate on Monday September 14, 2009 at 7 pm on channels 10 and 63 in Toronto.
I encourage co-op members and supporters who live and vote in St. Paul’s to email questions for the candidates and tune in before making your decision on election day.
Goldhawk Live is accepting questions via email until Sunday, September 13th at midnight.
Please send your questions to email@example.com.
Below is a question you may want to submit that gets to the heart of On Co-op’s ongoing government relations work:
“I am a member of the _______ co-op (or credit union) in St. Paul’s. There are 13 co-operative businesses in St. Paul’s. They range from housing, daycare, and credit unions, to an anti-discrimination co-operative. These are successful enterprises that serve the needs of St. Paul’s residents everyday. Together, along with the 1300 other co-ops across Ontario, they offer a strong alternative to traditional business models. In fact, a recent study out of Quebec showed co-operative businesses have a success rate almost 30% higher than other businesses over 5 and 10 years. Co-ops keep jobs in local communities and are democratically run.
Hoping to represent the riding of St. Paul’s and the hundreds of residents whose lives are made better everyday by co-ops, would you commit to advocating for increased partnerships between the provincial government and the co-op sector? Specifically, would you support the creation of a provincial Co-operatives Secretariat that would productively connect the co-op sector and the government to build a stronger Ontario?”
Feel free to alter this message to suit your personal situation.
Alternately, you could ask a question that deals specifically with issues around your co-op, or even simply ask the candidates about their personal experience with co-operatives.
If you have any questions, concerns, or would like to test-drive a debate question before sending it in, please contact me or post a comment.
The Town Crier community newspaper is hosting an all-candidates meeting on Thursday, September 10, 2009 from 7-9pm at Sunderland Hall, First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto, 175 St. Clair Ave. West (close to the southwest corner of Avenue Road. and St. Clair Avenue).
The entire second hour of the meeting will be given over to questions from the floor.
This is a perfect opportunity for co-op members and supporters who live, work and vote in St. Paul’s to get the message out about the value and strength of the co-operative sector. After September 17th, one of these candidates will walk into Queen’s Park as a representative of all the residents of St. Paul’s and he or she needs to know that co-operatives are an important part of the community.
To read the Town Crier article announcing the meeting, follow this link.
If you’re thinking of attending the September 10th all-candidates meeting, leave a comment on the blog, or contact me. I’d love to share On Co-op’s advocacy strategies and initiatives with you to find the best way to get the message out that Co-ops Work.
There are 13 co-ops in the riding and this by-election is a great opportunity for members to speak out about the important role they play in the community.
For a list of co-ops in St. Paul’s follow this link.
To find out more about how you can advocate for the co-op sector in this by-election, please contact me today!