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My book, The Co-op Revolution (Caitlin Press), talks about Roger Inman, CCEC and 1970's co-ops.  It is an account of my time with the co-op movement in Vancouver’s activist years of the 1970s. I was a founder and member of CRS Workers’ Co-op, an organization that was owned and managed by us. We started four projects in Vancouver, all to do with food production and distribution: a cannery that preserved BC fruit in honey, a beekeeping co-op, a bakery and a food wholesaler. As well, we helped other small food co-ops get started.

Sometime in the autumn of 1975 Michael Goldstein showed up at the Pandora Street office of CRS Workers’ Co-op with a sheaf of documents in hand. We knew that the co-op movement possessed its own form of financial institution founded by the people, for the people’s well-being. So when Michael told our group that he and others were trying to organize just such a credit union to be called CCEC, we were happy to sign up. Several of us signed on a charter document that night and some of us expressed interest on serving on the new credit union’s committees when it received its charter in 1976. Right on!—as we said in those days. This was what co-operatives needed—access to funds that were not governed by the big business of Canada's banks or subject to the day’s political whims. The credit union movement would be a big boon to women in business as well, recognizing their abilities to manage a loan without requiring a man at the helm.

From The Co-op Revolution: “Most of us opened our personal share/saving accounts at CCEC when it moved to its first real office at 205 E. 6th Avenue. I was member number 32 and my deposit card reports that on March 4, 1976, I deposited $4 to open my account, after which the deposits and withdrawals continued sporadically until 1981. That first transaction was initialed by K, which probably stood for Katherine Ruffen, the first manager.

The best thing about this credit union was its personal service in the days before ATM machines. If I had neglected to withdraw cash on a Friday for the weekend’s activities, I could call Katherine at work and tell her I was on my way. “Please don’t leave until I get there,” I would say, and I would arrive minutes before closing time.  It’s doubtful whether any bank or credit union today would be concerned about my lack of cash for the weekend.” 

One member of our co-op, Roger Inman, served CCEC Credit Union loyally and after his death in 1989 a memorial award commemorated his work. The award is given by CCEC annually in recognition of a project that has made a significant contribution to the economic development of the community. And that’s how Roger would have wanted it.  

I first met Roger in 1975 when I moved to Vancouver from Ontario. He had moved from Winnipeg around the same time with his tent in his backpack and had heard about CRS starting the Tunnel Canary cannery. He didn’t know much about co-ops or canning at the time but he was most enthusiastic about the project and his sense of humour helped us to get through some of the hot, labour intensive work of processing fruit and jam. Roger continued to work with the cannery collective until its demise when he turned to another CRS project, Uprising Breads Bakery.

There’s more about Roger and other CRS workers in my book, The Co-op Revolution. I’ll be reading from it at the Vancouver Public Library main branch on Tuesday, April 23 at 7 p.m. All are welcome to attend and books will be for sale. (For more, see: jandegrass.com).

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More than fifty members came out to the CCEC Annual General Meeting February 6th, to consider ordinary business and four special resolutions.  Special resolutions - which require 18 days notice and 2/3 majority support - are needed to alter the CCEC Rules (or 'bylaws').

The board proposed four Rule changes; texts and rationale had been circulated well in advance.  Director Shannon Daub presented these to the meeting, specifically saying that these changes were presented separately so that members would have the opportunity to consider each change on its own merits.  

In the end, three of the changes were carried by substantial majorities. These included (1) a prohibition of employees sitting as directors, (2) a charge to the nominating committee to inquire into candidates' potential conflicts of interest and report out on these to members, and (3) giving limited authority to the board to remove a director for misconduct, failure to attend to duties, or if they were obliged to resign by law and had not.  In the debate several particulars were highlighted, such as possible conflicts that may result in Rules texts, and the board will be looking into these more closely.   

Special resolution #4 failed. That change would have enabled the directors to introduce the use of electronic notices and voting, subject to statutory restrictions.  The principal concern expressed by those speaking against the motion related to electronic voting.  There was a view that CCEC should not proceed down such a path without much more careful planning and proposals. 

Within the context of these debates, but also receipt of other reports and elections, the meeting was lively and constructive.  All feedback on the meeting that has been offered subsequently has been positive and we thank all those attending for there contributions.

​The successful special resolutions have now been filed with the Superintendent, and the board will be reconsidering the various matters arising in the next few months. 

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Wild Salmon Caravan (WSC) is a project led by the Working Group on Indigenous Food Sovereignty (WGIFS) in collaboration with the Wild Salmon Defenders Alliance. The project engages multiple Indigenous and non-Indigenous Elders, activists, researchers and lawyers.  2019 will be the 5th annual WSC.  Dawn Morrison, Co-Founder/Chair of the WGIFS says, “The strength of our work lies in our networks and our ability to link with over 100+ organizations to leverage support, access funding, and co-develop programs, promotion, and public education materials, as well as plan logistics, and host community arts build workshops, feasts, ceremonies and visual and performing arts events.”  

The WSC, with guidance and direction from the Salish Council of Matriarchs, raises awareness of the issues surrounding the declining health and abundance of our most important Indigenous food, wild salmon. They organize community arts and cultural engagement activities that brings together Rainbow Peoples (peoples of all creeds and cultures) in their public education campaign and celebrations of the spirit of wild salmon.

The WSC mobilizes traditional ecological knowledge, values, strategies, practices and protocols that have persisted throughout the process of colonization. The WSC media highlights  teachings on sustainability of wild salmon fisheries and how it can be applied in the present day reality.  Sustainability of our efforts ultimately lies in the extended networks where Indigenous food, social and ceremonial fisheries knowledge lives, and the large volunteer basis on which the WGIFS and WSC planning teams work. We activate sharing and trading of knowledge and food and revitalize inter-tribal networks, and we promote and generate awareness of how to increase the communities’ ability to respond to their own needs for food in a way that affirms the regenerative paradigm that underlies Indigenous cosmologies and worldviews. 

In 2018, the eight-day caravan started in Vancouver with a parade on September 22 and finished in Chase at Adams Lake on September 29.  For more information and to get involved in the 2019 WSC visit their website  Like and Follow them on Facebook 
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Control is a complex subject.  In our increasingly centralized and corporate world, control is concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer people.  In this era of globalism we have some very large companies that have enormous influence.  Unfortunately, we then are confronted with how we can hold these billionaires and financiers accountable.  Governments even start to look small by comparison. Voting in our elections may provide leverage but big money is at play in elections too.  But beyond government, communities may assume 'ownership' directly.

Co-operative democratic ownership is a radical alternative model for organizing commerce, as is the democratic non-profit association.  It is through these models real 'DEMOCRACY' is achieved.  But these models rely on people to step up and participate, in pursuit of the common good.  The crux is for individuals to realize that a vote, every few years, is a bare minimum.  Responsible citizenship requires more of us. 

Corporate capitalism asserts that 'markets' will hold commercial enterprises accountable.  However, this has not proven to be the case; government regulation is needed to ensure transparency, safety, equitable treatment, and reasonable choice. And regulation is a constant field of struggle.  In addition, the dominant corporate model has two major shortcomings - the tendency to consolidate (create monopolies) and the tendency to place higher costs on those on the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder (e.g. payday lenders). 

The co-operative model, like the one we have at CCEC, gives consumer members the ownership responsibilities.  Ordinary people (though their representatives) assume control.  In this community ownership model 'profit maximization' is not the primary objective.  

In BC and in Canada the co-operative model is in some stress.  While some large co-ops and credit unions appear to be successful, the role of the members-owners has been eroded.  Democracy has been diminished. Small co-ops and projects become even more important.  Participation is key - as directors, on advisory committees, and as volunteers - that ensures 'control' rests with the people, but also generates debate, innovation and social change.

Democracy relies on ordinary people taking part, stepping up, and 'seizing' control in service of the common  good.

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Did you know that:

·         In BC, 50% of all seniors live on an income of less than $26,000/year?

·         The 2018 Homeless Count found that 23% were over the age of 55?

·         It is estimated that by 2038, about one in four people living in B.C. will be a senior?

Seniors face many issues and challenges that include social isolation, loneliness and poverty.  The Seniors 411 Society offers programs that reduce social isolation, increase social inclusion, and are a critical component of any anti-poverty strategy.  The Society’s submission on a Poverty Reduction Strategy for Seniors (Feb. 2018) states that the BC plan must address both increasing income and helping reduce or manage costs.  They also provided recommendations in seven areas that include housing, transportation, food insecurity and community based programs.  BC is still the only province in Canada without a poverty reduction plan.

In the 411 Seniors Centre Society submission, they emphasize the importance of community and social connections for seniors.  Seniors have told staff at the Society that they feel a loss of community if they move to a different and unfamiliar neighbourhood.  However, aging in place and finding quality, affordable rental homes in Vancouver, is a challenge for seniors on low and fixed incomes.  The new 411 Seniors Centre (anticipate ground breaking in Spring 2019) is a step to providing more seniors social housing.  It will have approximately 50 units of social housing, a multi-purpose centre and be located close to other amenities and services they need.

Leslie Remund, Executive Director for the 411 Seniors Centre Society, says, “We are a peer led membership organization that aims to cushion the impact of poverty by providing information, referral and advocacy services, a drop in for socialization & connection& daily activities that promote aging with pride and curiosity.”   The Centre strives to enhance the quality of life of seniors by adding a collective voice on seniors’ issues such as affordable housing, income, and health services.   Join us!”

Find out more about the 411 Seniors Centre Society.  Support their capital campaign for their new building.

(This year, CCEC was pleased to support a fundraiser for the 411 Seniors Centre Society.)

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Interest rates in Canada are climbing so if you’re on the verge of going into debt over holiday spending this year, you might want to reconsider.

To get through the holiday season with as little financial pain as possible, here a few tips to keep from overspending (which can be hard!):

Make a budget: Figure out how much you can afford to spend over the season and then work from there. For example, if you can afford $200, then make a list of what you think you need to buy and work backwards. And don’t be afraid to cut – whether it’s trimming the decorations, making your own cookies, or opting for a thoughtful card instead of a gift for someone.

Do go out with your list: Shopping centres and malls are packed at this time of year and it’s easy to get distracted and over spend. The best way to avoid this is to have a clear list of who you need to shop for and what you plan to buy for them.

Use cash: Paying for everything with cash or using your Interac Debit card makes it much easier to track your spending. Carrying a few bills along with you can ensure you stick to the essentials and avoid impulse purchases.

Have honest conversations: Avoid awkward moments by setting a price limit ahead of time for gifts among friends and family. This way no one is caught off guard by pricey or less fancy gifts. You might also find that you’d prefer to skip the gift giving altogether and opt for a night out or another kind of treat you can share.

Try a Secret Santa with your family: This is a fun way to set gift giving limits among family. Give everyone a budget of no more than $30 and one person to buy for. That way everyone gets a gift and no one has to break the bank.

We wish all our members the best for the holiday season. 

(reprinted from the cutrust newsletter)

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Image result for yellow vestsSeveral stories in the news feature angry gripes and protests.  Too often the superficial issues get the attention - a carbon tax, a luxury home tax or a pipeline.  Councillor Christine Boyle is represented in a recent piece properly identifying 'inequality', growing inequality, as the key issue.  She is right.

The BC government taxes are an attempt to re-balance taxation, but those who have homes valued in excess of $3M cry out that they are 'victims'. Entitlements, such as those we have given to homeowners and which benefit those at the upper end very handsomely, will not be given up easily.  We need to shine a light on these entrenched economic advantages if we are serious about egalitarianism,  

Many in the 'yellow vest' protests in Paris express their discontentment as added tax burdens are placed on ordinary people.  This is the core sentiment communicated by individuals on the street.  The street, in this case the Champs Élysées, is a venue for conspicuous consumption for the very wealthy, who are obviously distressed, not that the rabble are rising, but that their limo's may need to go elsewhere.  

And then we have the climate conference in Poland, where again rich nations delay action.  A sense of entitlement reigns. The recent IPCC report raised alarm, saying that warming is advancing faster than foreseen.  The BC government issued a new Climate Change Plan, but just as with the Canadian government initiatives to date, the actions are to little and even contradictory.  Vested interests, moneyed interests, such as the oil and gas industry, are not only 'entitled' but well integrated into the political apparatus that we have created. 

The discontentment that is growing may have dramatic implications.  Many, such as Chris Hedges, champion local community organizations as the key counter force to large scale capitalist machinations. 

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November is Financial Literacy Month in Canada. Throughout the month, we encourage you, our members,  to take control of your finances and reduce financial stress by making a budget, having a savings and debt reduction plan, and understanding your financial rights and responsibilities. 

​Financial literacy is important for the financial well-being of individuals, but also for the economy as a whole. Understanding the basics about money is as essential today as numeracy and basic literacy.​

We know that it isn’t always easy to live within our means, and debt can accumulate quickly. Having a plan to pay off debt will go a long way to reducing financial stress. Spending more than you earn makes you less resilient to economic surprises. A heavy debt load makes you more vulnerable if your financial situation changes or if you need to pay for unexpected expenses.

Learn more at https://www.Canada.ca/financial-literacy-month

We can help. Call us at CCEC to meet with one of our financial advisors. 

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Get out and VOTE in the upcoming municipal elections.  Voting day is October 20th.  Advance Polls are now open. 

Read the Vancouver Voter's Guide to learn more about the candidates and their positions on issues that are important to you, like housing.  Attend candidate meetings.  

Learn more at the City of Vancouver website. 

 

 

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Get out and VOTE in the upcoming municipal elections.  Voting day is October 20th.

Affordable housing is the biggest issue.  CCEC promotes non-market housing development.  Several of the people standing for office (mayors and councilors) have taken supportive positions.  The solution is not to build more high-cost condos and homes. 

Housing Central has assembled a wonderful website with resources for each community.  Check it out.

Community-based housing - co-op, non-profit, and other - takes housing out of the speculative markets and commits the housing stock to ordinary people.  Community-based housing provides affordable housing into the indefinite future.  In some cities over 50% of the housing stock is community owned.  In Vancouver and adjacent municipalities it is under 5%. 

The housing problem is not a 'supply problem', as developers assert.  It is a public policy problem.  It is a housing strategy problem, as Patrick Condon outlines in the Tyee.   Make your vote count on October 20th.     

 

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