Co-operatives and community enterprises are an important part of our movement’s heritage. For over a century, Canadians have turned to co-ops and community enterprises as a way to meet community needs locally, to build prosperous and equitable communities, and to lay the foundations of a more democratic economy and a more just society. More than ten million Canadians are members of cooperatives.
The evidence shows that co-operatives and community enterprises can be the economic bedrock of rural and urban communities, providing services and generating jobs while remaining incredibly stable. They can also be important sources of employment for persons living with disabilities and others who may be marginalized by traditional employers.
Beyond serving as a basic pillar of local economies, alternative models of ownership are the first step in moving towards a more just, more equitable economic system. Putting workers and local community members in charge, rather than corporate CEOs who don’t have the community’s best interest at heart, just makes sense. As Prime Minister, Charlie will work to make it easier for Canadians to create, operate and grow co-operative and community enterprises, to lay the groundwork for an economy owned by all of us.
What Charlie will do:
Give workers the legal right of first refusal to purchase a closing business and restructure it as a worker co-operative.
Charlie will introduce a law giving the workers of a closing business the right of first refusal to purchase the business and restructure it as a worker co-operative. Workers will be eligible to receive capital funding from the government, in recognition of the fact that they will not be collecting Employment Insurance, as well as having access to private capital.
Implement social purchasing for government entities.
Government institutions can be anchors for local economic development, but for too long the exclusive emphasis on price has prevented any consideration of social and environmental impacts. By implementing a holistic frame for procurement that includes the impact on social and economic justice, the environment, and community development, Charlie will ensure that government purchasing becomes a tool to promote local economies and greater diversity of the labour force.
Invest in the Canadian Co-operative Investment Fund and create a Community Economic Development Tax Credit.
One of the biggest barriers co-operatives and community enterprises face is access to finance. Federal investment into the Canadian Co-operative Investment Fund would allow the CCIF to launch properly and give co-operative enterprises all over the country access to a source of capital that understands the co-operative community and its needs. In addition, a Community Economic Development Tax Credit will stimulate locally-owned and administered finance.
Work to harmonize provincial and federal legislation and regulations around co-operatives.
Co-operatives need a regulatory framework better adapted to their unique circumstances and needs – there are currently 17 acts governing non-financial co-operatives in Canada. Charlie will work with the provinces and territories to reform the regulatory and legal structure around co-operatives to make them easier to start, and allow them to carry indivisible reserves to make sure that co-operatives remain community trusts.
Ensure that innovative new co-operative forms are supported.
The digital economy is a new frontier for common ownership, where innovative forms like platform co-ops are taking root. Charlie will ensure that platform co-ops and other forms of digital common ownership get the support they need to pave the way for a co-operative digital commons and a high-tech sector that empowers workers and consumers.
Launch a new Co-operative Development Initiative.
Co-operatives present enormous opportunities to working people looking to start a business and fill a community need, to produce and deliver renewable energy. They can also be a great way for local communities, such as an Indigenous community, to retain local control over enterprise and development. But co-ops need support to develop and expand. That’s why Charlie will launch a new Co-operative Development Initiative through Canada’s regional development agencies, which will focus on providing technical assistance, small capital loans, and business support to co-operatives seeking to start or expand.