Let’s #Rebuildbettertogether — Cooperatively

Submitted by Peter Cameron, Co-op Development Manager, OCA

This July 3, we will celebrate how co-operatives from around the world are overcoming the pandemic crisis by “Rebuilding better together”.

We want to do it better this time because the pandemic has shown that the present system was not working for the majority of people. And you know that old saying attributed to Albert Einstein: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”? Let’s not continue to repeat this mistake.

Individual actions are important, but to really fix the major problems we are facing like climate change, economic inequality and social exclusion, we need to work together with everyone contributing and represented. We are all “members” of this planet and if we work together, we can create a more just and sustainable world. That’s what the co-operative model will help us do — because it is based on the triple bottom line of People, Planet and Profit — and not just about the traditional private shareholders.

Together, we can transform our health care for seniors by allowing multi-stakeholder co-ops where family members, caregivers and seniors all have a say in determining the services that are provided. Personal Support Worker (PSW) co-ops and DSW (Disability Support Worker) co-ops can replace the existing big corporate long term and home care providers. The workers will be compensated fairer and the service to individuals will be better.

Together, we can transform the Gig Economy and make it fair for all. Why should Uber Eats and Skip the dishes make so much money off the drivers and the restaurants providing delivery services? A Delivery co-op could provide effective service for the restaurants while paying the delivery people a living wage. Why shouldn’t they also have some benefits like healthcare and pensions?

Together, we can provide food justice. Food co-ops like the Mustard Seed in Hamilton and the London Food Co-op provide nutritious whole food to communities, while making sure farmers and producers are fairly compensated. Farmer co-ops like Gay Lea Dairy and GROWMARK, Inc. have shown that by working together, farmers can compete with any of the big corporations.

Together, we can help solve our affordable housing crisis. Housing Co-ops are a proven model and we already have over 2,200 non-profit housing co‑ops across Canada that are home to about a quarter of a million people in over 90,000 households.

Together, we can save community assets like pubs, cafés and shops. The Plunkett Foundation in England presently supports over 400 communities, preserving vital community assets and services by utilizing the sustainable co-operative business model. In Ontario, communities coming together have formed co-operatives to save local assets like the Aron Theatre in Campbellford, or the Epicerie Coop Grocery in Moonbeam.

Together, we can fight climate change. Solar and Wind Renewable energy co-ops allow communities to benefit from creating sustainable energy.

Together, we can help students suffering food and housing insecurity at our universities and colleges. Instead of more corporatizing and dependence on high-paying international students, we can support co-operative bookstores and housing like the Guelph Campus Co-op founded in 1913 or the University of Toronto’s Campus Co-operative (1936), and provide students with affordable services and a model for a democratic way of living.

Together, we can own our own financial institutions. Why support the big banks with their high service fees and multimillion dollar pay packages to CEOs? Credit Unions are member-owned, community based, and are all about delivering service and benefits to their members, not maximization of shareholder value.

From a very young age, we are told to co-operate and work together, but somehow, that message got lost and the supporters of the capitalist business model said it’s all about competition and “taking care of business”.

If we truly want to work together, we need a business model that allows everyone a seat at the table — the co-operative business model fits the bill. It allows us to make money while providing the services and products we all need, but doing it in a way that is democratic and based on solid, sustainable values. So this time, let’s “Rebuild better together” by doing it co-operatively.

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Our vision is an Ontario where co-operatives and credit unions contribute to the sustainable growth and development of our communities.

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Our vision is an Ontario where co-operatives and credit unions contribute to the sustainable growth and development of our communities.