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This recently completed poll of British Columbians provides insight into what is aggravating us. The Centre for Policy Alternatives commissioned the poll of more than 1000 residents and it confirms that affordability and inequality are troubling many of us. The poll also finds substantial support for carbon taxes and climate change mitigation, and overall support for fairer taxation. For more information click here.   
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The second largest credit union in BC is applying to become a bank.  Coast Capital Savings (@500k members at @$16B in assets) has made an application to the provincial regulator, FICOM, for permission to be continued under The Bank Act as a federally incorporated entity.  FICOM is requesting public input, so let's encourage people to write. [Added: CCEC submission Mar 28, 2017.]

The Bank Act was amended three years ago to allow for 'federal credit unions' as a type of bank. The federal government has taken other steps to induce or coerce larger credit unions to move to that jurisdiction. Coast is the first from BC to move down this path, a special resolution was put to that credit union membership in November, with very little supporting information and no real debate.  Now, FICOM has to review the proposal.

A more complete explanation may be found at www.cufutures.ca  A blog post there outlines many concerns.(other information is at www.governancewatch.ca )

But two big questions arise;

  1. Are credit unions not inherently local, self-help responses to a big national bank oligopoly?  This conversion abandons the model of a network of locally based, democratically controlled financial co-ops.  
  2. And will the departure of these large credit unions undermine the viability of the real credit unions that remain?  We must ensure the legacy of several generations, the credit unions of BC, are not undermined and placed at risk.

RG

 

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Hunger in Canada is not about the lack of food.  People are food insecure because they can’t afford to eat.  Poverty is a multi-dimensional problem.  We know that the systemic causes of poverty cannot be addressed overnight.  But, we need to put in place a Government-wide integrated approach to addressing the systemic issues of poverty based on the principles of social inclusion and collaboration.  And that we need to start with income.

Meet CCEC Member, the Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks and its’ member sponsors, Ian Marcuse and Joanne MacKinnon.  Ian says, “As the price of food escalates, increasing numbers of households are feeling the food affordability squeeze.  We are seeing more people coming to our programs that include community kitchens, community meals and food hampers (bulk buying and free baskets).  We are feeling under pressure as we need to expand our existing food programs and establish new food programs to serve those in need.  Ideally, rather than expanding existing food security programming, we would prefer to tackle the systems that result in food insecurity and end poverty."

So, who is going hungry?  We have a growing population of working poor in Canada whose wages do not cover basic necessities.  2/3 of food insecure people are working.  We know that inadequate wages, shrinking social assistance rates, meager pensions, illness and disability are at the heart of food insecurity.  More than 4 million people in Canada are unsure about where they’ll eat next or skip meals so their kids can eat.   1 in 8 people are food insecure but only 25% access the food bank.

The Neighbourhood Food Networks, with 12 part-time funded coordinators, are part of the Greenest City Action Plan to address food security and to increase all residents’ access to healthy, culturally appropriate food.  Joanne MacKinnon says, “We believe in the right-to-food, and social justice are at the forefront of our philosophy and how we approach our work.”  She continues, “We work with our program participants but are engaged and contribute their diverse skills and talents toward co-creating a just and sustainable neighbourhood food system.”

Part of the solution is for BC, who is the only province in Canada without a Poverty Reduction Strategy and Canada, who lacks a comprehensive policy to step up and put in place the strategies and policies around food justice.  According to CCEC Member, Raise the Rates, Canada has a Poverty Policy.  This needs to change.

But, Do Poverty Reduction Strategies work?  Let’s look at Newfoundland and Labrador's Poverty Reduction Strategy which is a government-wide (13 Ministries) approach to promoting self-reliance, opportunity, and access to key supports for persons vulnerable to poverty.  The strategy, introduced in 2006, includes more than 90 initiatives that were created based on an intensive public consultation process.  Their cross Ministerial approach developed strategies to address the linkages between poor health and low income, between low income employment and limited economic development, between poverty and violence and impacts on women’s equality, and the need to support persons with disabilities.  How do they know it is working?  Just one indicator shows that it is working: food insecurity has been reduced by 50%. 

The bottom line is that we should be supporting employees fighting for fair, livable wages.  It’s time that politicians, backed by citizen voices, talk about justice and equity.  It’s time to create real, long lasting solutions to poverty and hunger, policies that bring us together, rather than divide us as citizens.

In BC, we have 17 government ministries that work with vulnerable populations and, often-times, they seem to be working at cross purposes.  We know that the systemic causes of poverty cannot be addressed overnight.  But, we know we need to get started.  Next year, 2017, is a BC Provincial Government election.  Make your vote count.

The Neigbhourhood Food Network and its’ coordinators at the local level are unique and separate in that we respond to community needs with grassroots solutions. But, together, we represent the experiences of thousands of individuals across the city, giving us an important role to play in advocacy and systems change.

Learn more about the Neighbourhood Food Networks and support our work. 

And, sign on to end poverty in Canada:  http://www.dignityforall.ca/   

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Credit unions are consumer owned enterprises that represent a fundamental challenge to conventional capital corporations.  Credit unions do not exist to generate profits, but to provide services to member-shareholders.  Recent published documents raise some interesting questions about the future of our credit unions.  

Consolidation and amalgamation over the last thirty years has drastically reduced the number of credit unions in BC (and elsewhere).  In the mid-eighties there was 120, now there are 43.  And the two largest credit unions comprise @50% of the deposits and almost 50% of the memberships in BC. Two papers submitted to the provincial government review of credit union legislation were made public online and provide pointed criticism of the erosion of member democracy in large credit unions. Submissions are public and the papers from Bruce Bachelor and Mark Latham both argue for enhanced democratic practices. Also, governancewatch.ca  provides an excellent overview of difficulties at Coast Capital Credit Union. 

But beyond that, credit union members also own "second tier" enterprises, or are the beneficial owners of these; Central 1, Co-operators Insurance, CUMIS Insurance, etc.  Since credit unions control these businesses, consumer owners rarely consider their stake in them.  But a recent paper from Central 1 provides a great overview, and a discussion of a 'restructuring' of these entities - Future State. But this paper fails to recognize consumer ownership as the key 'uniqueness' of our credit unions.

Over time the radical idea of consumer control has been down played.  More emphasis has been placed upon marketing smarts and service. Indeed, co-operative democratic governance has been under-represented and eroded.  Members are no longer encouraged to take active interest in the affairs of the credit union, unless there is a merger proposal. This is unfortunate, as the price of democracy is vigilance.  Our credit unions not only manage our savings, but also control substantial accrued 'wealth'; retained earnings is an asset held/owned in common by all members. This is community property.  

Our organizations do not 'belong' to the managers and directors. When there are big choices to make members should be consulted. Members must not only think about their own accounts and transactions, we all have a stake in the community organizations that we have jointly created over time and organizations that ought to be looking out for us as we move forward. 

CCEC welcomes input from our members on the evolution of the credit union system and how we may play our part.  Feel free to listen into this podcast with Ross Gentleman and Tammy Lea Meyer. 

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Personal chef meets postpartum doula - that’s what The Veggie Doula brings to the table.  Meet CCEC member, Chef Laura who says, “Let me worry about food preparation so that you can focus on the most important task - bonding with your new baby.”  With the intent of alleviating some of the challenges and stress of bringing home a new baby, The Veggie Doula comes to your home and prepares veggie-centric meals for baby and the whole family. 

 

Contact The Veggie Doula at:

theveggiedoula.com

veggiedoula@gmail.com

604-710-8664

 

Having a baby can be one of the most joyful experiences of peoples’ lives. It can also be one of the most stressful.  All families, big and small, can find the new adjustments overwhelming.  This is why Chef Laura has set out to alleviate some of these challenges.  The Veggie Doula carries one week of groceries on her bicycle fit with a trailer to prepare veggie-centric meals in your own home! The goal is to support families and provide nutritious, high-quality meals during this special transition.  With the intent of alleviating some of the challenges and stress of bringing home a new baby, The Veggie Doula comes to your home and prepares veggie-centric meals for baby and the whole family.

 

Professional doula and chef, Laura is both.  Classically trained in culinary arts at George Brown in Toronto, Laura is skilled in creating satisfying vegetarian food made accessible for everyone in the family.  Years of nanny experience helped her developed new ways to satisfy picky eaters and her own complex palate pushes her to explore exciting new flavours for those with more sophisticated tastes. In addition to helping several families through their birth and postpartum experiences, she has received accreditation in both postpartum Doula and Breastfeeding Support from Douglas College in Vancouver.   Bringing her favourite things together - food, birth and bicycles - The Veggie Doula was born.

 

The Veggie Doula’s services make an invaluable group baby shower gift as well as a necessary preparation service for yourself as parents-to-be. Grandparents near and far may also delight in the service and care they can provide by hiring Laura.

 

Personal chef meets postpartum doula - that’s what The Veggie Doula brings to the table.

 

Contact The Veggie Doula at:

 

theveggiedoula.com

veggiedoula@gmail.com

604-710-8664

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The Trans Pacific Partnership is a mammoth '6000' page agreement reached in private among 12 developed Pacific Rim nations, including Canada and the USA, comprising 40% of the world's denominated economic activity. The agreement is championed as a trade deal, but it is much more; stretching into the realms of health services, consumer protection, environmental regulations, employment law, and much more.  Opposition to this massive agreement is being voiced by many; including the Council of Canadians, Doctors Without Borders, and 350.org,  The Canadian government proposes to hold hearings before ratification is considered in parliament sometime in the next two years. Beware.       

Beyond the various technical issues that can be debated, such as intellectual property rights, dairy producers' quotas, and projected employment 'gains', there are deeper issues that relate to the very heart of democracies.  While sometimes these concerns are represented as a loss of 'sovereignty', that language is misleading.  The TPP (and the 'CETA' with Europe) erode fundamental democratic rights and institutions.  Under these trade agreements governments, and those people who they represent, are substantially limiting or conceding the powers they have to govern 'themselves', and to resolve their own disputes fairly.    

For community groups, advocacy groups, small enterprise, local governments, and others, the rule books are being totally re-written, principally by the international corporate elites. Joseph Stiglitz, the notable Amercican economist, made a bold appeal to oppose the TPP before an audience at UBC several weeks ago; arguing that it will simply fuel greater inequality. Henry Mintzberg, a prominent business professor at McGill, argues that it would consolidate 'corporate' power when what is needed is a re-balancing of the powers between private sector, public sector and the community-based sector of democratic societies.  A piece in Rabble is most succinct.  

Are you willing to 'sell' your liberty, and your democratic heritage?  That is the bargain.  The TPP sets out special rules for international players, such that people in a nation state may not intervene or limit the activities of Big Business, or may do so only up to a point. Disputes are not tried in a public court that is both independent and scrutinized by the people; for these players the 'arbitration' is in private, using hired international lawyers who may indeed be conflicted, and without right to appeal. The proposed TPP grants these elites such privileges with the promise that there will be more 'jobs'.  Is this a new feudalism? 

Democracy requires vigilance from citizens. Question authority.  

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Meet Andrea and Jeremy, long time members of CCEC who have opened a new business, The Village Dispensary, serving artisan coffee and teas* (not infused with cannabis) and a dispensary.  Vancouver has had operational dispensaries for almost 20 years with the support of the municipal government and local police force.  The City is a leader in this marketplace providing a framework for the rest of Canada to look to as the Federal Government has indicated its’ intent to move forward with legalization and regulation.  Andrea and Jeremy call themselves cannabis consultants.  Their dispensary promotes the value of the plant with products scientifically tested to deal effectively with chronic ailments such as cancer, MS and Parkinson’s Disease plus; plus a therapeutic stream to address sleep disorders, PMS, menopause, anxiety and other issues.

The Village Dispensary is a local business that sells products from ‘mom and pop shops’ including Apothecary Labs and Canna Life Botanicals.  Andrea asserts that this is about a plant that has been used medicinally for over 9000 years and has been studied clinically by Dr. Raphael Mechuolam starting in 1964 and he was the first scientist to isolate THC from the plant in 1965, then discovered the endocannabinoid system in the early 80's.  This is creating green jobs, growing our local economy, and feeding the local market.  Both Andrea and Jeremy are very entrepreneurial.  Andrea has owned Café du Soleil, Ragz n Rerunzz, earthbabies and was a partner in the baby carrier product, The Happy Sac; while Jeremy, a mechanical engineer, founded and operated a renewable energy contracting business called, exchangenergy inc.   Andrea says, “As peri-menopause began to show its face, I was able to address some of the symptoms with cannabis.”  She adds, “It is important that I am able to share that experience with other women and their partners.  That is one of the reasons The Village was conceived."  With this in mind, she also is involved with the local chapter of Women Grow Vancouver.  Her partner, Jeremy, a chronic sufferer of back pain that is relieved with cannabis products says, “I'm excited to bring top shelf medical cannabis that both connoisseurs and the canna-curious can experience.  BC hosts some of the most celebrated artisan growers and makers in the world and we want to see those growers thrive and grow.”  

It is hard to pick up the paper or watch the news without seeing an article about medical cannabis. There are an estimated 300 dispensaries in Canada – Vancouver has the most with 100 which is double the number of Starbucks locations – and there are 26 licensed producers sanctioned by the government to grow and supply marijuana only by mail to people with medical prescriptions.  In a recent Globe and Mail Article it is noted that provincial governments, health authorities and even the Supreme Court of Canada have affirmed that access is essentially a health issue.  CCEC has agreed and provides banking services to some of these businesses. 

The potential benefits are changing people’s views. They reference an article by the US National Cancer Institute stating that Cannabis kills cancer.   Both Andrea and Jeremy say, “The medical profession should embrace cannabis as an institutionalized treatment in hospitals.”  With all the research, the medical profession needs education on cannabis as a treatment regime.  At this time, owners of cannabis dispensaries, like Andrea and Jeremy, are self-taught attending many expert lectures, reading, joining professional support groups, watching many documentaries and, knowing their growers.  It is time we legitimized their business, formalized the training and education to de-stigmatize the weed, break down the barriers, myths and stereotypes.

* They sell CCEC member,  Cease Wyss's products Raven and Hummmingbird teas, salves and tinctures

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The loose, no rules, improv, learn by ear band…a sister project of the Carnival Band.
Free for kids from the neighbourhood.

The value of music education has eroded so dramatically that most schools are cutting music from their curriculum.  Even the after school music programs are considered too structured.   Enter The Greenhorn Community Music Project, started by Brenda Koch, a Carnival Band member and elementary school teacher.  She laughs when asked why she started the project saying, “Not everyone fits into the wild, crazy, eclectic, energetic vibe of the Carnival Band who have over 400 songs in their repertoire and always mix up the 10 songs they will play at a show.”  Armed with a ‘Dr. Suess style logo designed by local artist, Jeremy Glen, the Greenhorn Community Music Project thinks big and wants to see 100 kids in their workshops learning and growing through music. 

How can you help?

  • Donate instruments, music stands
  • Spread the word!  Like us and Share on Facebook 
  • Come to their first performance  Dec 21st 6pm with the Carnival Band at Granville Island Winter Solstice
  • Join the fun, contribute your musical talents and expertise.
  • Donate funds to support them and keep them going in year 2. Send a cheque payable to Transforming Education to 2511 Ave, Vancouver, BC  V5M 1H1

The Greenhorn project provides kids of all ages with musical leadership, mentorship and instruments to play.  There is someone at each workshop (aka practice) who will take the time to help newcomers understand and learn.  Also the workshops are from 3:30-5pm on Mondays so youngsters can participate.  Just like the Carnival Band, the Greenhorn aims to teach people to learn by ear like a professional musician, pay attention to what others are doing and to learn to improvise.  When you think about it, these are all life-time skills that help to build confidence and self-esteem – and fit in with the Carnival Band style if they want to join them.

It has taken five years to see the project launch with their first workshop in September, 2015.  Through word of mouth, 21 people showed up; and at one workshop, they had 8 newcomers.  One person heard of them through Facebook and all kids are from the Grandview Woodland area.  The kids range in age from 4 to over 60.  They have a roster of 25 or so people and average 12-15 at each workshop. 

They have funds to support the project for the school year till June, 2016.  They are proud to be the recipient of the East Feast 2015 award, funds from CLICK (contributing to lives of inner city kids), the Vancouver Foundation who provided a $10,000 feasibility grant and a private donor.  Most of the funds support the professional fees for Tim Sars, Musical Director.  They have two interns, Charlotte (16 years old) and Marlo (17 years old) who started with the Carnival Band when they were pre-teens.  They both provide mentorship; Marlo works on marketing, outreach, and fundraising; while Charlotte provides admin support and was responsible for initiating their partnership with the Transforming Education Society, which allows them to issue tax receipts.  It is with this partnership and Instruments of Change they broaden their connections with the community and build their network.

The Greenhorn Community Music Program making a difference in our community.  Support their project. 

 

 

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The 2015 Roger Inman Memorial Award recipient has had a busy year.  The organization is a grassroots anti-colonial migrant justice group with leadership from members of migrant and/or racialized backgrounds. 

Brian Peaslee, organizer says of the Award, "The generous funding  we received was used to help cover legal fees for migrants facing deportation from Canada."

He adds that in addition to direct support for migrants, over the past year they also helped to organize a benefit concert that raised over $15,000  for a healing lodge at the Unist’ot’en Camp who are fighting  for indigenous sovereignty against pipelines in in Northern BC.  They produced an extensive report, web site and video series on the effects of changes to migration policy in Canada and took a lead role in the Refugees Welcome and Transportation Not Deportation campaigns in Vancouver. 

The Annual Community March Against Racism came back to the Drive for its eighth year in March and was a great opportunity to gather together and raise our voices against injustice.   Support the work of No One is Illegal-Vancouver Coast Salish Territories.

Click here to learn more and to become a financial sustainer.  Recipient of the Roger Inman Memorial Award in 2015.  Nominations are being accepted for the 2016 Award. Click here for more information on the Inman Award and for the nomination criteria.

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Medical cannabis dispensaries in Canada face a substantial hurdle doing business because the big banks have declined to provide services.  An excellent article in the Globe and Mail surveys the challenges, especially in light of the pending major changes to our federal laws.  

CCEC is highlighted in the article as an agent of change, because it has agreed to provide banking services. As noted in the Globe article, provincial governments, health authorities and even the Supreme Court of Canada have affirmed that access is essentially a health issue. CCEC has agreed.   

CCEC wants to build healthy and just communities, by empowering ordinary people. Political and social change is underway and there are roles for community groups and community-based financial institutions to play.  CCEC may be small, but we can have impact. 

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