British Columbia’s co-op sector gets financial boost from government

The provincial government of British Columbia, Canada, has announced a CA$2 million [about US$ 1.6mln] investment to support the development and growth of co-operatives.

The British Columbia Co-operative Association [BCCA] and its partners have raised more than US$ 1.7mln to match the government funding, which will be used to improve support infrastructure and identify co-op development opportunities for Indigenous communities, newcomers and marginalised groups, and rural communities.

“Co-operatives are driven by values that support a robust and equitable economy, and thriving communities,” said Niki Sharma, parliamentary secretary for community development and non-profits. “This funding will empower more co-operatives to work collaboratively for British Columbians.”

The money will be distributed through the BCAA in collaboration with partner organisations. Solid State Community Enterprises, the Union Co-op Initiative, the Hua Foundation and the BC Libraries Co-op have all contributed to the fund. Projects that support work toward reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, anti-racism, climate change and a strong, sustainable economy will be prioritised for funding.

“This timely investment by the province will contribute significantly to building the capacity of the co-operative sector and scaling the impact of our existing partnerships,” said Paul Cabaj, executive director, BCCA. “The end result will be more and stronger co-operatives to serve the pressing needs of more British Columbians.”

There are about 700 co-ops and credit unions in BC The greatest concentration is located in the lower mainland, West Kootenay and Vancouver Island regions. Some examples of larger BC co-ops are Vancity, Coast Capital, Modo, BC Tree Fruits, the Co-operative Housing Federation of BC, and the Kootenay Country Store Co-operative.

Co-ops and credit unions employ more than 17,000 British Columbians and contribute US$ 2.7bln annually to the province’s gross domestic product.

“Co-operatives are value-driven organisations that play an important role in our communities, supporting pressing social priorities such as employment, child care and housing,” said finance minister Selina Robinson. “This investment will help expand their impact.”

The government is also launching a review of BC’s Co-operative Association Act, which provides rules for the incorporation and corporate governance of co-operative associations. The review will help ensure co-ops can operate efficiently, while ensuring transparency and accountability. Based on initial feedback from the co-op sector, a consultation paper will be released in the fall. The legislative review is being led by the Ministry of Finance and advances Sharma’s mandate to support modernisation of the sector.

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