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October 19th is International Credit Union Day, a day to celebrate the positive 'self-help' story of citizen based financial institutions. In many ways the story in BC is a very good one, but the consolidation trend of the last 25 years has a less optimistic face.

Ross Gentleman's OpEd piece in today's Vancouver Sun sets that out for all BC credit union members to consider. http://vancouversun.com/opinion/opinion-small-credit-unions-threatened-by-consolidation

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A research project is underway to consult Canadians about how human rights are to be incorporated into trade agreements.  Towards a Socially Responsible Trade Policy is organized by a team from the University of Montreal and the project is seeking input from all Canadians on how we see NAFTA and other trade deals.  There is an online survey, and a day of hearings on Sept 22nd in Vancouver.  

This is an independent, non-government project.  It uses a social justice framework, in a way similar to the approach of all community developers, and the Solidarity Economy activists in Montreal. Community level organizing always features human rights, this research pushes us to apply the same principles more effectively in the realm of international trade. 

Take part!

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  Recently, Matt Hern has had a book published, it is called What a City Is For; the Politics of Displacement. The author is attached to SFU and well-known in East Vancouver as an activist. The book is excellent exposé on how our property ownership system works to the advantage of some while squeezing out many.

This week there is a great overview of the book published in the Georgia Straight, Charlie Smith provides a good description of the essential arguments put forward in the book. Those of us who live in East Vancouver should pay attention. The current approach to real estate has divorced our city from our residents. Increasingly real estate is seen as an investment, it is not seen primarily as a residential resource.The home ownership markets tend to chase lower income people out, enabling gentrification.

Those interested affordable housing should review the both the case studies from other cities and the proposals that Matt Horne brings forward. They will appear radical. They challenge the status quo. But our fascination with home ownership, in particular, is at the heart of the problem.  We need to reconsider both our cultural assumptions relative to home ownership and our way of taxing real estate holdings.  A good case is made for non-market housing, and removing the incentives to speculate on this resource.

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The Britannia Community Centre renewal project is underway. Funds have been earmarked to revitalize the 18-acre Britannia site that includes the High School, a swimming pool, ice rink, seniors centre, library, family centre and more.

Community consultation is the first step.  Get involved. Come to the meetings.  Make your voice heard.  Britannia Community Centre complex is the heart and soul of the Grandview Woodland neighbourhood, is close to CCEC Credit Union and a number of our members live in this area and use the facility.  

Planning and Development Committee meetings are held on the 3rd Tuesday of the month from 7-9pm in the Britannia Info Centre and are open to the public. (Next meeting: Tuesday, August 15th, 7-9pm in the Info Centre)

The Housing Subcommittee is exploring possibilities for public housing on the Britannia site.  Email info@britanniarenewal.org for more information or to get involved. (Next meeting: Tuesday, July 18th, 5-7pm in the Info Centre- a light dinner will be provided)

Check out our website for past meeting minutes, upcoming agendas, news, updates, and more!

www.britanniarenewal.org  | info@britanniarenewal.org

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Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein's newest book is called NO IS NOT ENOUGH, and it is a call out to communities, thinking people, and progressive politicians. She sat down with Charlie Demers at a Writers Festival event on June 24th and laid out the essential arguments for constructive change - environmentally, socially, and economically. 

At the core, she emphasizes that resistance, saying no and protesting, is not going to be enough.  She contends that 'reacting' to a rapacious agenda the degrades the planet and consigns millions of people to poverty, or worse, is only a first step.  She sees the need for progressives to fashion a strong, fresh, and vital agenda that can contest the field in democracies, especially the USA. And also, she sees the need for communities, municipalities, and local governments to pick up the bigger challenges - and not wait for 'big government' to take action. 

The book largely pivots on the new directions, statements, and behavior of the new leader of the free world.  She entertainingly and succinctly lays out the 'brand management' tactics of the new president.  There are echoes of her previous books No Logo, and This Changes Everything. But she also includes observations on the recent BC election and the UK election.  In those cases she was heartened by the championing of truly progressive and exciting policies, broadening the discussion of what can be done by government. She noted that these visions were supported by voters.

The argument goes further than electoral politics, however. Ordinary people and community-based initiatives are also needed - both to effect action and to hold governments accountable.  Naomi Klein was referencing the Women's March and other events that are prompting people to get involved and take greater responsibility for a whole host of issues; immigration and refugees, housing, health services, education, transportation... In this context, CCEC and the many community groups we bring together are primary examples.

The challenge to the hundreds in the audience that evening was simple, 'It is up to you, us, to develop a vigorous, positive plan for the future; and put it in place.'

 

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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

‚Äč

 

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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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