Canadian Worker Co-operative Federation
F�d�ration canadienne des coop�ratives de travail
November 2013 Newsletter
Follow us on Twitter
Vol 5, Issue 8
Like us on Facebook

CWCF AGM/Conference a Success!   


The Canadian Worker Co-operative Federation's (CWCF) annual Conference and AGM which is held jointly with CoopZone took place in Edmonton, Alberta, from November 7th to 9th.



Key highlights of the Conference included Worker Co-op Showcase Ignite presentations, presentations and discussion on the Indivisible Reserve, and a session on Effective Meetings and Decision-Making in a Worker Co-operative. There were several workshops on topics of practical interest to worker co-ops and developers.


Lynn Hannley was awarded the Worker Co-op Merit Award. Over the years she has been involved in the development of several worker co-ops, 59 housing projects and other community-based co-operatives, and helped create the CoopZone training program. For more about Lynn, see:


At the AGM some important resolutions were passed, notably a co-op preferential purchasing policy and a resolution to develop a proposal for favourable tax treatment for co-operatives who institute indivisible reserves within their by-laws.  These resolutions plus the 2013 Annual Return and other Conference documents are here.   


Three Board members were acclaimed: Prairies, NWT/NU Director Jamie Campbell of ParIT in Winnipeg, At-large Director Yuill Herbert of Sustainability Solutions Group in Nova Scotia and a new British Columbia/Yukon Director, Stephen Elliot-Buckley, of Incipe Cooperative in Burnaby, British Columbia.


Continuing Board members include At-large Director Alain Bridault of Orion Co-op in Quebec City, Atlantic Director Eric Tusz-King of EnerGreen Builders' Co-op in New Brunswick, Ontario Director, Reba Plummer of the Urbane Cyclist (Toronto), and Quebec Director, Jessica Provencher, La Barberie (Quebec City).

CWCF thanked the outgoing BC Director Boris Schaffer for his many contributions.


The CWCF Conference had the theme "Educating Each other for Empowerment". Keynote speaker, Yvonne Chiu was joined by other members from the Multicultural Health Brokers Co-operative where they shared their story of how they built their worker co-op that empowers immigrant workers. Conference participants had an opportunity to visit the Multicultural Health Brokers on-site later the next day. An inspiring 3-minute video of MCHB is available here.  


Participants were very pleased to have a report from Rebecca Kemble on the ICA / CICOPA activities held immediately prior in Cape Town, as well as from the Official Opposition Critic for Co-ops, H�l�ne LeBlanc.


Participants viewed Shift Change, an excellent documentary that CWCF encourages its members and others to bring to cities and towns across Canada (click here for more information), as a great way to educate the public regarding worker co-operatives.


More information on the CWCF-CoopZone Conference is available on the CWCF site.  PowerPoint presentations and other background information will be posted to the website soon. 

Conference Highlights 2013 by Joy Emmanuel 
Where do I begin? The theme of this year's conference was:

Educating Each Other for Empowerment - and it delivered big time! In a nutshell, the gathering was wonderful, engaging, and inspiring!  


Wonderful: great connections, "extended co-op family," diverse, shared leadership.   Engaging: love the mix of sharing and peer learning, presentations, social time, and practical workshop themes. Inspiring: hearing all the co-op stories of how people are working through challenges and coming together to create successful community-based businesses with a social conscience.    


Here are a few of my highlights:












  • Fabulous demonstration of co-op principle # 6. Co-operation among Co-ops. Great exchange of insights in peer-led workshops by members of various worker co-ops. Some topics: Effective Marketing Strategies, Accountability and Personnel Policies, Access to Capital.
  • Meeting H�l�ne LeBlanc - the NDP MP who is "The Official Opposition Critic for Co-operatives" in the House of Commons. H�l�ne shared her excitement and passion as she talked about visiting some of Alberta's rural energy co-ops and asked many questions about co-operatives in Canada.
  • The Developer's Caucus - great feedback from members on how we can strengthen CoopZone, better serve our members, and work collaboratively with other parties to strengthen the co-op sector in Canada. One example of this was talking about how we might expand the CoopZone training and mentoring program into new specialized areas, such as co-operative conversions.
  • Visiting the Multicultural Health Brokers Co-op and hearing their stories about following the co-op path over the last 15 years, as they grew from a small but mighty group in the beginning to 57 dedicated members. Yvonne Chiu, keynote speaker along with four of her "sisters" from the co-op, shared stories of going through the good times and the bad. "You have to go through the pain to get to the joy." And that was evident as they shared heart-warming stories of helping new immigrant families find the resources and supports they needed to provide for themselves and their families in one of Canada's coldest cities.
  • Listening to members of workers' co-ops discuss the idea of a mandatory indivisible reserve policy. This means a portion of the surplus generated by the co-op would always stay within the co-op and could not be distributed back to members. The willingness to consider this option models the co-op values of equity and trans-generation solidarity (e.g. the thinking is that having a portion of the surplus retained in the co-op movement discourages current members from "selling off" the co-op business in good times, rather than committing to the long term longevity of the business to benefit those who follow.)
  • Connecting with all of our great CWCF-CoopZone staff again and benefiting from their caring attention to details - including making sure we all had drives from the airport! Thank you Hazel, Pamela, Kaye, Peter, and anyone else I missed.
  • And there is so much more I could say about the fun and empowering co-op event! Hope you can join us next year. November 6 - 8, 2014 in Wolfville Nova Scotia.
Conference Review
by Kevin Harding, Incipe Worker Co-op


The most recent CWCF/CoopZone annual Conference was one that was useful and fun. Bringing together close to fifty representatives from across the co-operative sector in snowy Edmonton, the Conference enabled attendees to share experiences, wisdom, questions, and even poetry.  I am glad to have had the opportunity to attend on behalf of my co-op, and I know that I learned lessons that I will be able to bring back and put to use.

CWCF Conferences are different from a number of other AGMs and conferences that we might otherwise attend; in addition to the business of receiving annual reports and electing directors, there are a series of educational workshops and panels to share experience between co-ops. Indeed, that was the topic of this year's Conference - and it was one that was well-planned and well-received.  Panels included discussion on digital marketing strategies, opportunity assessments, how to host well-functioning meetings, and much more.  I was pleased, as I know a number of other attendees were, to have the opportunity to hear from other worker co-operators and ask questions that are immediately applicable - how do we use Twitter properly? How can our meetings actually be productive?

Many attendees I spoke to were in agreement that the workshops were well planned and relevant, focusing on topics and issues that mattered directly to the people present. Many of the presenters shared handouts and relevant guides - and I could see people taking notes when I presented on effective meeting tactics! The engagement was impressive.

Perhaps my favourite part of the entire Conference was a rather impromptu creative evening, after our wonderful local musical artist had offered an open-mic session. Attendees from across the country took the opportunity to share their poetry, short stories, music, and jokes. Young or old, everyone who participated shared something that meant something special to them in an amazing environment. We even took the opportunity to sing the "Ballad of the CWCF." It's been said that these kind of evenings used to be a regular feature at CWCF Conferences - here's one vote to bring that back.

The CWCF and CoopZone Conference is an excellent opportunity to meet other worker co-operators, share stories and learn lessons, and have fun. I am already looking forward to next year's get-together in Wolfville, NS.

A driver for the workers: by Peter Driftmier

The 2013 CWCF Annual Conference a driving force  

(as experienced over dinner and the dashboard)  



Not the outfit one could wear in St. Albert in November 

A Crossroads


It appeared, from behind my steering wheel, that the worker co-op movement is at a crossroads, of sorts. (Not that there ever isn't a moment in history when the decisions that the worker's movement didn't impact its future.) A year has gone by since the federal government terminated the Co-op Development Initiative as well as significantly cut the Rural and Co-operatives Secretariat. As if the project of creating a democratic economy one co-op at a time wasn't already one of the hardest thing to do in our monopoly capitalist society, the coming-together of CWCF members to learn, share, support best-practices and support the continuing survival of each co-op strongly appeared to be a most crucial forum for survival as a sector.


I drove worker co-operators, politicians, and co-op developers to and from the CWCF's annual Conference. While a few were old friends, many more are new friends and co-conspirators in this broad effort to create a more just economy. I was able to attend portions of the Conference discussions, but the majority of my impressions were gathered from conversing with conference participants in between the plenaries. While I've never been a worker co-operator, I write from a sense of investment in the health of the sector as one who has long been deeply involved in the movement for economic justice.


Several discussions highlighted the incredible opportunity to advance the formation and support networks for new worker co-operatives. Current attempts to partner with the union movement to develop new, unionized worker co-ops appear to be a solution to the destruction that industrial abandonment has left many Canadian towns with. The formation of a new National Co-op Development (Investment) Fund through the Canadian Co-operative Association, would compliment the model of the CWCF's Tenacity Works Fund to an essential level to allow for current and potential co-ops to access capital that is geared to their needs (last year's AGM voted to support this Fund). The CWCF has intentions to do outreach to retiring business owners and their employees to assist them in converting to the worker co-op model, averting potential job loss.


All of these initiatives have groundwork laid, but will require an all-or-nothing enthusiastic effort from those who believe in them enough to make them a robust reality.


Best Practices


The main debate that the CWCF membership discussed was the role that the Federation should play in furthering the best practice of putting an indivisible reserve into the constitution of worker co-ops. Briefly, when a co-op forms indivisible reserves, it creates a portion of all profit/surplus that is to be reserved for giving back to the co-operative movement or reinvestment in that particular co-op. To illustrate, this may be as a donation to a co-op movement-level organization or development fund to help assist or develop worker co-ops. For example, when/if a co-op dissolves, the entirety of the wealth the co-op created doesn't just get divided amongst members, but a reserve goes back to the movement (in keeping with co-op principle 6). To read an in-depth look at indivisible reserves, see this.


The membership gave an overwhelming mandate to the CWCF Board to pursue advocacy and assistance to worker co-ops in developing indivisible reserves as a practice, through favourable tax treatment.  There was somewhat less enthusiasm, yet still a 2/3rds majority, for the Board to pursue research into the option of advocating for different levels of government to include indivisible reserves as a mandatory practice for worker co-ops. (At this point, several directions are on the table for the Board to research. None are singled out as CWCF policy, yet.)


The reasons for not wanting government to regulate this aspect of co-op formation are valid: might it inhibit new worker co-ops from forming if they knew that it was still yet harder to walk away from the project with as full of an RRSP or shares as otherwise possible? Does asking government to establish a new limit on how we self-organize as democratic co-ops run against our purpose of self-governing as economic organizations? There was a sense that such best-practices and sense of movement-building might best come from the co-op movement itself, and that government regulation shouldn't replace this.


Yet, can best-practices most effectively be put into reality when we include it in the very definition what a worker co-op legally must be? As an outside observer who has participated in the working class movement for several years, I was keen to ask many co-operative workers about their co-op's structures and was surprised to learn that many of the CWCF's members did not have 100% membership amongst workers. While many acknowledged and shared their struggles in navigating how to operate without 100% buy-in or participation in their co-op, I completely had to about-face change my definition of what a worker co-op is from what I (and certainly many others out there) had been steadfastly certain of before. There were many discussions about recent unionizing-drives amongst non-member workers at worker co-ops, and the conversations tended to de-emphasize the agency and structure of the worker co-ops implicated.


Just as we cannot trust traditionally structured companies to make best-practice choices without mandating it through regulation, can we trust ourselves as worker co-operators to make best-practices a reality without creating some form of accountability mechanism towards this pursuit?


When best-practice discussions arise - in the worker co-op movement as much as any other social movement or business sector - it is always about our future purpose, survival and resilience.


Why attend a CWCF Conference?


I had the chance to ask several delegates what they got out of attending the Conference. For several, it was a chance for newer members of co-ops to learn about the diversity of worker co-operatives' structures, processes, and lessons learned so that they could return to their own co-ops more empowered. It was a chance to meet co-op developers for future assistance (and free one-on-one consulting during the Conference). Others met specific goals to network and exchange ideas with other co-ops in the same industry/sector as themselves. Several promoted their services to other organizations in the co-op sector (in keeping with Co-op Principle 6, of course).


One overwhelming reason that I heard was that the daily grind of operating in a worker co-op business often leaves people feeling isolated from their larger support network of other co-ops and co-operators; attending the Conference was one of the most direct annual opportunities to engage with other co-operators, as a co-operator, and feel like one is part of a movement.


Leaving the Conference, even as just a helper, I certainly felt like I was part of this movement, too.

Conference Highlights from Participants
Executive Director Hazel Corcoran &
Board President Alain Bridault


 "This is my first CWCF AGM.  It's been very inspiring. It's great to connect with everyone and there is a lot of enthusiasm.  I previously worked as a bike messenger; there is a lot of solidarity among them globally, too; like I see here.  I don't think there could be a sole proprietorship Giant Conference.  It's really exciting. The least inspiring part of it was definitely the indivisible reserve discussion, as I don't know much about it.  There is good gender division here, but there's not good ethnic diversity.  We could invite multicultural groups to come to the event and speak to us.  It'd be good to help them get here by providing supports."



"I feel like my co-op at home is a family.  One of the most awesome parts of this Conference was to find out I have an extended family.  I was really excited about some of the workshops.  I found that I got to talk to people about personal stuff. I went to the Access to Capital workshop; it made me understand that there's a whole back end to business in general.  I look forward to expanding my knowledge in this area."


" I found it great exchanging, and I feel proud to belong.  Technically, there were great times for exchange and cultural experiences.  Those who weren't there late last night, we had a great spontaneous session of music & poetry; let's plan it for next year.  I really appreciated the free consulting time.  Sometimes just sharing the issue brings out ideas.  This event would also be very good for co-ops who are not doing well, but most of the time when they aren't doing well, they can't afford it.  For those coops who can't attend: perhaps we can get them here." (Jessica Provencher)

"Conference was good -- best venue of my CWCF time to date, at least with regards to food. My vegan comrades were happy folks. Good workshops, allowing participants to get to the nitty gritty of various issues. The Indivisible Reserve discussion was somewhat on the intimidating side for those not already familiar with it, but is a topic of huge importance and had multiple preparatory calls ahead of time... at some point the indivisible reserve baby bird just needs to be gently nudged out of the nest for it to be able to make progress." (Jamie Campbell)


Ian MacPherson - Tribute Page 


"It is with great thanks for all of your kind words that I send you this quick note. My email has been flooded with kind thoughts from such a huge group of exceptional people. It has given our family great peace and love. You are all part of our family too, and we thank you for thinking of us.


We are doing as well as can be expected, and we are slowly coming to terms with some plans. I suspect we are going to organize a celebration in mid January, and I will let this group know when we have finalized plans.


Denyse Guy from the CCA started this blog, and asked me to circulate it, and ask you to circulate it freely. The stories and thoughts that you have all shared with our family have touched us greatly, but it feels wrong to keep them to ourselves. If you feel like sharing with the rest of the co-operative world, I know that dad would be proud. 


In dad's name, our family asks that you: a) strike up a conversation with a random stranger b) encourage somebody else to join a co-op and explain why or c) do something nice for another person without taking credit for it.


With greatest respect and kindest regards


The MacPhersons"

RESEAU Newsletter / Bulletin du RESEAU
Le Reseau
Le fran�ais suit.
Quebec's RESEAU has published its November Newsletter, with articles on the launch of an important new publication about worker co-ops by the Quebec trade union movement, the 25th anniversary of the Youth Services Co-ops, and the passage of a new Social Economy framework Law.

Le RESEAU a publi� son infolettre de novembre 2013, avec des articles tels que:
* La FTQ, la CSN et la CSD ont lanc� une publication � l'intention de leurs syndicats affili�s intitul�e � Les coops en milieu de travail : un choix de d�veloppement? Oui �.

* Les Coop�ratives jeunesse de services c�l�brent leur 25e anniversaire. et

* La Loi-cadre sur l'�conomie sociale au Qu�bec.


Le bulletin est disponible ici.   


International Summit of Co-operatives 

The Canadian Worker Co-op Federation has recently signed on as a partner of the International Summit of Co-operatives, to be held in Quebec City October 6 - 9, 2014.  Significantly for our sector, one of the five Summit themes will be Employment.  Recent news from the Quebec 2014 International Summit of Cooperatives in their November 6 newsletter
can be found here. 
  • International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) General Assembly in Cape Town, South Africa
  • A Canadian government study confirms that cooperatives have a positive impact on development 
  • Pope Francis strongly supports the co-operative movement 
  • Agricultural cooperatives: Crucial partners in the fight against hunger and poverty 

Pour la version fran�aise, cliquez ici.    


Other news in their November 20th newsletter, including an exclusive interview with Monique Leroux and the unveiling of the new co-op marque, is here.  

Pour la version fran�aise du 20 novembre, cliquez ici.  


" Moving Beyond Capitalism" conference




"Moving Beyond Capitalism" Conference
July 29 - August 5, 2014
Center for Global Justice, San Miguel de Allende, M�xico
  • What can we do now to get from here to there?
  • How do we bring capital under democratic control?
  • Which changes are co-optable, which transformatory?
  • Where is the "other world" that we think possible being constructed?
  • What are the openings for and the obstacles to its development?
Capitalism is in crisis.
Yet, backed by arms, it dominates and threatens our species and our planet. Survival now means putting humanity before profit. What practices unite us across gender, race, class,and cultural differences to empower the many instead of enriching the few? To answer, the Center for Global Justice invites thinkers and doers from the global South and global North to bi-lingual discussions of the practical global task of "moving beyond capitalism."

Call for Submissions
We invite you to complement prophesy and hope by addressing problems of transformation.Individual/group submission summaries due Dec. 31, 2013; full descriptions (or papers): April 30, 2014. Contributions include: improving existing proposals, adding new ones, sharing organizing results, sketching global transformation, etc. We meet in colonial San Miguel Allende, in central M�xico.

Themes: the commons, 21st cent. socialism, cooperatives, solidarity economy, autonomous communities in struggle, ecological-social sustainability, steady-state economics, economic democracy, public
banking & democratic finance, gender equality & sexual democracy, localization, alternative communications & media, indigenous struggles, participatory budgeting. Suggestions welcome.

Featured speakers: Gustavo Esteva (de-professionalized intellectual), Gar Alperovitz (What Then MustWe Do?), David Schweickart (After Capitalism), Margaret Flowers & Kevin Zeese (activists), Fernando S�nchez Cuadros (economist), Camila Pi�eiro Harnecker (Cuban economist & co-op advocate), & more.

Work: Jointly evaluate current movement-backed options; discuss themed submissions; & develop"suggestions for further study & organizing." Screenings, performances, & exhibits welcome. Visit local groups building "another world." We urge 6-day participation. To "digest" the encounter we offer 2 daysin the thermal waters of the "cooperativa ejidal," Las Grutas de Tolantongo in Hidalgo state.

Details: Bus via Quer�taro; fly to Mexico City (MEX) or Leon (BJX); sliding scale fee; partial travel scholarships; discount hotel or free home stays; videos/books of results; simultaneous interpreting.

Since 2004, the Center for Global Justice ( has been a global open membership group dedicated to "research & learning for a better world" and North-South solidarity. Offerings: tours, lectures,solidarity economy networking, co-op workshops.

Help shape MBC: send summaries, ideas, & queries to: Mexico ph: (52) 415 150 0025, VOIP 347 983 5084

The Canadian Worker Co-operative Federation (CWCF) is a national, bilingual grassroots membership organization of and for worker co-operatives, related types of co-operatives (multi-stakeholder co-ops and worker-shareholder co-ops), and organizations that support the growth and development of worker co-operatives.  CWCF's e-newsletter is available free of charge to anyone with an e-mail address and an interest in worker co-operative developments in Canada. 

Please send any comments and suggestions to: 


Kaye Grant

Editor of CWCF Newsletter

(204) 257-1198


In This Issue
Conference Highlights
Conference Review
A driver for the workers
Conference Participant Highlights
Ian MacPherson Tribute
L'Infolettre du RESEAU
International Summit of Co-operatives
Moving Beyond capitalism
Merit Award Presentation
CWCF Health & Dental

 "I'm so new to the co-op world.  I learned the co-op principles in the car from Brian Scott on the way from the airport.  Hearing about indivisible reserves on the first day was terrifying.  Yesterday, I really learned a lot.  I now feel I can more clearly ask the Co-op to support me in this.  When I become a worker-owner in May, I'll have a better sense of how to have us move forward.  Maybe someday I'll understand indivisible reserves."


Natalie Dyck, Urban Eatin' Workers Co-op 

Quick Links
Join Our Mailing List
Conference Notes
Evaluation Feedback

"All in all was very impressed with the entire conference."

"Great Conference - Thank-you!"

"Great meals and very considerate for special meals."

"A very memorable weekend."


Merit Award Presentation to Lynn Hannley by Hazel Corcoran

"Lynn Hannley is the Managing Director of The Communitas Group Ltd. Over the years she has been involved in the development of 59 housing projects, serving a broad range of incomes, whose total value exceeds 300 million dollars and provides housing for 2,070 households. Lynn has provided development services to worker co-operatives and community based co-operatives. Lynn has also been involved in research in the area of housing, education, community and co-operative economic development, health systems and social programs and policies.


Lynn studied genetics and anthropology at McGill and the University of Alberta. Lynn has served on a variety of Boards of Directors including the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada, Capital City Savings and Credit Union (Servus), the Edmonton Task Force on Homelessness, a joint task force of the City of Edmonton & Province of Alberta, Home-Ed and the Edmonton Joint Planning Committee on Housing Research. She along with two colleagues prepared the first Edmonton Community Plan on Housing and Homelessness in 2000. She is also a published author in areas such as housing, land use, co-operatives and social policy. In 1993 Lynn received the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Award for outstanding contribution to co-operative housing, and in 1998 the Alberta Co-operative Merit Award from the Alberta Co-operative Council, now ACCA.


Lynn Hannley has won the Alberta Co-operative Merit Award and the CMHC Award for Outstanding Contribution to Co-operative Housing."


The Communitas Group is not incoporated as a worker co-op, but functions as if it were one.


Lynn was briefly a Director of CWCF in 1990's and for many years she represented CWCF on the ACCA board. She was on the Steering Committee overseeing CoopZone when it was a project of CWCF-CCA-CCCM transitioning to independence.


Lynn was also a founding board member of CoopZone. She was the co-op developer for the Multicultural Health Brokers Co-op, Co-op Commons, and has worked with other worker co-ops.


Currently Lynn is the representative for CoopZone to the CCA Co-op Development Advisory Committee and was recently elected chair.


On a personal note, I'm lucky to live in a co-housing co-op, Prairie Sky, for which Lynn was the main developer. It is an extremely well-functioning co-op. I moved to Alberta 21 years ago, and from that time Lynn has been a mentor to me.


The coops that Lynn helps to create are often models. You could see it with the MCHB. Their DNA has traces of Lynn in them. Her own spirit & vitality are reflected in the co-ops she has helped to create.


I believe that everything she gets involved in is better because she's been involved in it: on the level of the individual co-op, the province, the national level. She can work at all of those levels and is extremely good at all of them.


Perhaps surprisingly to some, she has made all of this happen in Alberta.


She is an incredibly clear and quick thinker. You always know what she thinks, and if anyone floats an idea which Lynn believes could be dramatically improved or is downright bad, you know it right away.


I believe that Lynn is a practical visionary.


She has a deep understanding of the practical aspects of developing co-ops, but always w/ an eye to the vision to create an alternative & better world.


More than any award that we can give her, the on-going life of the co-ops she has developed is a legacy that Lynn is creating, & continues to create.   Congratulations.


CWCF Health & Dental Program


How would your business be impacted if any one of your employees became ill and couldn't work?


A healthy workforce is a productive workforce.

Keep your employees protected from the financial losses related to an unforeseen illness or injury!

Purchase affordable Health insurance through the CWCF!


CWCF has partnered with Co-operators and CBA to provide health and dental programs at preferred Member pricing. Take advantage of group buying power and gain access to:

Coverage for small employee groups*
Coverage for individuals
Discounted rates

 Flexible programs for changing needs 


We're here to help.

With more than 25 years of plan consulting expertise, CBA can help you build a customized plan to suit your Co-operative's specific needs.


For more information contact Member Services at 1-800-463-2555 or email