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“How can we create wealth, ensure social equity, and protect the environment?”  This question was posed in 2013, as CCEC hosted a Community Conversation on the BC Economy.  We were one of the 100 Community Conversations associated with the SFU Public Square project. Our blog  captured the feedback of ten CCEC members who participated in the conversation.  This blog highlights what we heard from our members as  seven years later, we are asking ourselves the same questions. 


The group first challenged the idea of a ‘BC Economy’, expressing the view that it was really an aggregation of several local and regional economies that were very distinct.  The consensus view was that the framing of the question was biased to mega-projects, large scale interventions and comparisons to global ‘norms’; a view that discounts small business and local exchange.   One voice noted that this abstraction was much removed from people’s everyday life.


Secondly, the conversation explored the term ‘create wealth’.  Harvesting natural ‘wealth’ is not creating wealth.  And GDP growth is a narrow indicator that certainly does not measure community well being.  Much discussion evolved around other more meaningful measures of community health in political-economic terms; suggestions included child poverty rates, street homelessness counts, and a happiness index.  It was observed that the ‘wealth created’ by the Exxon Valdez disaster, as an example, was not to be pursued as a ‘good thing’.

The group also wondered aloud about the waste created by industrial activity and a culture of consumption.  Why does conventional economics ignore, or downplay, the despoiled air, water and earth passed to future generations?  Why are there such inequalities with so many left in the margins?  Why do those in power deny and discount climate change?  

At CCEC, we want to encourage and foster conversations with members about our political-economy;  to foster individual agency and to explore the role of group action and projects.  

You may not know that "CCEC" was originally adopted by the credit union because the precursor organization that collected pledges to found the credit union was the Community Congress for Economic Change. 


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Internet provider discontinues service in Haida Gwaii - Aug. 19.  The COVID-19 crisis has brought into sharper focus a digital divide that is both socioeconomic and geographic. As our lives have shifted to online, many of us take for granted our internet connection and the access that comes with it. The Internet is considered a basic service, but there are too many people who don’t have accessible, inclusive and affordable service.


A Digital Divide is a difference in access to technology between nations, regions and people based on demographic factors such as income, race and age.  One year ago, we wrote a blog on the Digital Divide and its importance to our communities. The crisis has highlighted how essential an internet connection is to daily life - to earn a living, to access mental health resources, or to apply for benefits - and why it’s unacceptable that one in 10 Canadian families do not have a home internet connection.  


Racialized, low-income people are being hardest hit by the Divide. With COVID, it has become more difficult for marginalized populations to stay connected to their social and community support networks.  This is not only in remote areas or on Indigenous lands but here in Vancouver. The Binners Project in the Downtown Eastside, for example, had to change its weekly meeting to phone calls. Most Binners, who do not have access to the internet or a cellular phone, felt more disconnected and lonely as many still are not employed.


Internet access is expensive both as a customer and for the service providers. Many rural, remote, and Indigenous communities don’t have access to a good connection due to the costs to service a small number of people. A town with a population of 14,000 reports that it can take at least 2 hours to download large files like homework.  Teachers with slow or no access are wondering how they will provide online learning for their students. ACORN reports that more than one third of Canadians have to make sacrifices to afford home internet, like forgoing spending on transit or even food.


The Province included internet and telecommunications in the list of services that must continue to be delivered during the pandemic, describing these services as “essential to preserving life, health, public safety and basic societal functioning.”  Home internet is used for vital life activities and at the same time remains unaffordable and inaccessible.  Let’s support a Just Recovery where all British Columbians have access to high speed internet. 


Please share your comments with our members.


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We’ve come to a fork in the road. We need to decide if we are an ‘oil country’ or a ‘country of nature?’ Do we want the previous status quo, with its now-obvious holes in our health and social well-being nets, and its trajectory towards climate catastrophe? Or do we want to “build back better” in ways that fight climate change, inequality & injustice?


We talk about  building a healthier, fairer, greener province based on a clean economy. We want to support strong climate and clean energy policies needed to build a resilient economy. We know the projects generated from a clean energy framework can put people to work in safe, healthy, well-paid jobs. We understand that a green recovery is a  just recovery and we don’t want anyone to be left behind. 


The Premier’s Economic Recovery Task Force is scheduled to release its findings from the 6 week public consultation process this month. The report aims to provide recommendations on how the $1.5 billion fund set aside for recovery spending will be deployed.  A member of the task force,  The BC Federation of Labour, submitted, “We must make up for lost time in addressing the climate crisis, with an accelerated and inclusive path to a green economy. The global collapse of oil prices is only the latest drastic swing in the fossil fuel economy — and one more sign that a sustainable future must rely on a swift transition to cleaner, renewable sources of energy.” They continue by saying, “We must look beyond economic indicators to human outcomes — our goal entails nothing less than the end of poverty, homelessness and other inequities. And it goes deeper: a meaningful connection to the communities they live and work in and with — even in times of crisis, with no exceptions.” Reading submissions like those of the BC Federation makes it sound hopeful that the BC Economic  Recovery Plan will support a Green New Deal. 

At the same time, however, we continue to invest in fossil fuel projects. The Trans Mountain Pipeline, owned by the Canadian Government, continues to be built despite knowing there is no longer a market in Asia or in the US to sell the gas; that we publicly committed  to climate action in the Paris Agreement; we have a flawed consultation process with Indigenous communities; a  failure to consider the risks posed by increased tanker traffic; ongoing protests and other concerns.  We know that the BC Recovery Plan Task Force is represented in favour of heavy industrial business and is  lobbying to have their projects be financially supported through the Plan.  

The Report
is scheduled to be released this month.  Let’s see how well the  recommendations reflect the importance of workplace safety, strong public services, and our collective responsibility to take care of each other. We have the chance to address those gaps, and to do much more. We can build back better than before.

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Invest locally, achieve prosperity, and build resilient regional economies. A blog in 2013 on the book,  Local Dollars, Local Sense by Michael Shuman, continues to resonate with CCEC as we have always kept your money working in your community. When the book was released in 2012, CEDNET (The Canadian Community Economic Development Network) called Shuman, the “local economy pioneer with his revolutionary toolbox for social change”. 

Shuman shows that by putting our money into local businesses, we build resilient regional economies. In 2012, he said that Americans’ long-term savings in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, pension funds, and life insurance funds was about $30 trillion, but “not even 1 percent of these savings touched local small business—even though roughly half the jobs and the output in the private economy come from them.” 

Here are some highlights from the book that hold true today:

Economic development as practiced today has three dubious characteristics.  It focuses on nonlocal business.  It lacks a coherent framework for assisting local business.  And it is a top-down enterprise.  There is an alternative set of principles and practices—a “local living economies” (LLE) approach to economic development that focuses on local business, creates an entrepreneurial ecosystem that supports them, and invites grassroots participation. 

Starting in the 1970s, the objective of most economic developers became to attract or retain global businesses.  Indeed, one of the most common phrases in the professional literature, even today, is “to attract and retain.”  What this formulation misses is locally owned businesses.  A locally owned business cannot, by definition, be attracted.  And most locally owned businesses, because they have deep relationships to a community through its managers, employees, owners, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders, usually do not require special efforts to retain them. The focus on “attraction and retention” suggests that economic developers have increasingly focused on global big business.

A community prospers when it follows three simple rules: 

Rule #1:  Maximize the percentage of jobs in your local economy that exist in businesses that are locally-owned. 

Rule #2:  Maximize the diversity of your businesses in your community, so that your economy is as self-reliant and resilient as possible.

 Rule #3:  Prioritize spreading and replicating local business models with outstanding labor and environmental practices.

As we restart our economy with a just recovery framework, it is key to support our local businesses and to buy-local.  Banking at CCEC allows us to lend to you, your neighbours, our businesses and arts community. Invite a friend and family to join us today.


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