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The Diversity of Ontario's co-operative sector (click on image to learn more)

People in Ontario have been participating in co-ops for more than 150 years. Traditionally, co-operatives flourished particularly in the agriculture sector, where they were a powerful marketing and business supply tool helping farmers compete with powerful suppliers and processors. As the image above shows, that has changed dramatically in the 21st century.

CO-OPS CONTRIBUTE NEARLY $6 BILLION TO THE ONTARIO ECONOMY ANNUALLY

A study released in November 2015 shows that Ontario’s co-operative sector contributes $5.97 billion yearly to the province’s GDP. The research study, finds  that the highest number of co-operatives are in housing and child care services -- and that insurance, finance, agriculture and whole sale industries are the economic drivers for the co-operative sector in Ontario.

The Ontario co-operative sector injects $3.3 billion into household income and is responsible for providing more than 57,000 jobs (full-time equivalents). Ontario co-ops pay more than $1.3 billion in taxes annually.

The data was taken from the 2010 annual co-operative survey conducted by Industry Canada and shows that while strong, Ontario's co-op sector has not grown in proportion to other provinces. The province of Ontario counts for nearly 40% of both population and GDP of Canada, yet its co-operative sector accounted for only 10% of the national co-op activity. If Ontario’s co-operative sector had grown at the national average, the sector would have been four times as large as it was in 2010.

Ontario’s co-operative sector is a combination of financial co-ops such as credit unions, caisse populaires and insurance companies, and non-financial co-operatives which operate in about 20 key sectors of the Ontario economy including telecommunications, housing, agriculture, arts and culture, social services, child care, retail sales and transportation.

Duguid notes that her research team has examined the size and economic impact of co-operatives nationally, in Manitoba and in other provinces using the same methodology. Additionally, On Co-op conducted a socio-economic impact study of the 59 co-ops and sector-affiliated organizations in Guelph earlier in 2015, and plans to work with partners in other areas to replicate its study in other regions across the province.

Download the infographics and the printed research study from the links at right to learn more.

THE ONTARIO CO-OP EXPERIENCE

From the early 20th century, co-operative leaders in Ontario were provincial and national leaders. E.C. Drury, a founder of the Ontario agricultural co-operative movement, was Premier, and Agnes Macphail, an early director of that same movement, was Canada's first female Member of Parliament.

Ontario has significant areas of co-operative strength in the marketplace and the social arena. The five top non-financial co-operatives in Ontario, are Gay Lea Foods Co-operative Ltd., Hensall District Co-operative Ltd. Progressive Pork Producers Co-op, Sincere Trading of K.B.A. Co-operative Ltd. and Integrated Grain Processors Co-operative. (Financial co-ops include The Co-operators and credit unions such as Meridian, Alterna Savings or FirstOntario.) Co-operatives such as The Co-operators are consistently named among the 50 best employers to work for in Canada by The Globe and Mail's Report on Business magazine and others.

Ontario farmers are at the forefront of the so-called 'new-generation' co-operatives. The new generation concept is evolving as a new co-operative enterprise model for agricultural producers to retain ownership and control of their products beyond the farm gate and to invest in ventures that add value to those products. The model offers farmers the opportunity to join together to move up the value chain and capture some profits from processing.

BEYOND AGRICULTURE.
There are more than 1,300 co-operatives in Ontario. The largest co-operative sector in Ontario is housing co-ops (45%), followed by child care (17%) and financial services (17%). The fastest growing co-op sectors in Ontario are local (often also organic) food and renewable energy.

Download the "Co-ops Work" sheet from the downloads area at right for more information about Ontario's co-operative sectors.

 

LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK

Co-operatives are corporations incorporated under Ontario's Co-operative Corporations Act ("CCA") They are member owned and controlled businesses which operate on co-operative democratic and financial principles:

  • One member, one vote, regardless of the amount invested
  • Distribution of surplus to members, based on their use of the co-op
  • Limited appreciation of capital. (That is, interest on loan capital and dividends on share capital are limited to a percentage fixed by the CCA Act or the articles of incorporation of the co-op)

The Co-operative Corporations Act was created in 1974. On Co-op is working with the Ontario government to make changes to co-op legislation that will allow co-ops to effectively and efficiently operate in a 21st century economy. See the links at right to learn more. Other than a statutory requirement that the majority of their business must be conducted with their members (the 50% Rule), the CCA does not regulate the day to day business of a co-operative or the member-established by-laws under which it operates. However, co-ops must also operate under the legislation and policies of the industries and sectors in which they operate (e.g. funerals, health care, housing, social services, transportation, etc.)

Some co-operatives issue securities to their members, and to restricted categories of non-members. There is no market for these securities. People who invest in co-op securities usually do so for the value the co-operative will provide them as members in making available goods, services, facilities or jobs rather than seeking income or appreciation in the value of their investment.

Co-ops can be incorporated with share capital, without share capital, as a worker co-op (with or without share capital). Ontario co-op legislation does not use the terms "for profit" and "not-for-profit", however, loosely, co-ops incorporated without share capital are considered 'non-profits'.

Co-ops raise capital for growth and operations from their members, or they may seek debt financing from a credit union or bank. (They cannot look to stock exchanges.) Where co-operatives are incorporated with share capital, no Offering Statement or prospectus is required for the basic membership share. For co-operatives wanting to raise capital through the sale of securities, they must provide prospective investors with an Offering Statement (subject to certain minimum statutory exemptions) which has been receipted ('"approved") by the Financial Services Commission of Ontario before the security may be sold. Raising capital is often a complex process requiring knowledge of co-operative legislation and governmetn policy, and any co-operative considering this option is strongly urged to seek expert advice from a co-operative developer and/or On Co-op. 

PROVINCIAL ASSOCIATIONS and NETWORKS

On Co-op is one of nine provincial anglophone co-operative associations operating across Canada. While each reflects the needs of its provincial co-op system and member-owners, their mandates are similar. Co-operative businesses are more successful when they are part of a federation, association or network. On Co-op encourages co-ops to belong to their sector association! On Co-op also encourages all types of co-ops (no matter size, age or sector) to belong to the regional co-op networks that On Co-op is supporting throughout the province. And finally, co-ops are encouraged to belong to On Co-op as a Member, Supporter or Friend (see our membership pages to learn more).

ON CO-OP MANDATE: The Ontario Co-operative Association believes that co-operatives build a better world. We are the trade association and capacity-building organization that develops, engages, educates and advocates for Ontario’s 1,300 co-operative businesses. On Co-op is an information and resources network with a mission to lead, cultivate and connect co-operatives. 
The Ontario Co-operative Association provides its member-owners with programs, resources and networks that support their organizations and facilitate growth and opportunity. From the strong foundation provided by our membership, On Co-op builds co-op awareness and vitality, and unites the co-operative movement in Ontario.

Since 1989, the Ontario Co-operative Association (On Co-op) has served co-ops, credit unions and co-operative federations in Ontario. Francophone co-operatives are represented by the Conseil de la Cooperation de l'Ontario (CCO). On Co-op and CCO are working together on a shared government relations strategy and often partner to deliver co-operative development services in the province.

A variety of sectoral federations represent and serve groups of co-operatives in Ontario, including the Canadian Worker Co-op Federation, GROWMARK Inc, Central 1 Credit Union,  Ontario Student Co-operative Associationthe Federation of Community Power Co-operatives, and the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada, Ontario Region. Almost all sector federations that have member co-ops operating in Ontario are members of On Co-op.

THE CO-OP DIRECTORY AND MAP

In 2002, On Co-op undertook to identify each of the co-operatives, caisses populaires and credit unions in the province. In 2007, On Co-op, in association with Imagine Canada and the Social Economy Centre, launched a comprehensive survey of every co-op, credit union and caisse populaire in Ontario. In 2015, On Co-op worked with researchers to further examine the economic impact of co-operatives in Ontario. We have created a map depicting the co-ops in Ontario (found in the related documents at the top right of this page), and maintain a list of all co-op and credit union head offices and branches in Ontario. See our Find A Co-op Directory to discover the co-ops in your community. More information can be found on our census page.

News

Co-op Principles in Plain Language

Oct 12, 2015 - The co-op principles are the foundation of co-operatives worldwide. To make them more accessible and easy to understand, On Co-op presents a plain-language translation of each of the seven international principles.

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June 2017 CMC Congress & AGM

Jun 22, 2017 + others - CMC Congress & AGM

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Find a Co-op

FIND A CO-OP

The On Co-op e-Directory is a comprehensive listing of more than 1,300 Ontario-based Co-operatives, Credit Unions and Caisse Populaires. Search by city, name, type of co-op or keyword.

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On Co-op is a trade association and capacity-building organization that develops, engages, educates and advocates for Ontario's co-op businesses.