Co-ops in Ontario
People in Ontario have been participating in co-ops for more than 160 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. 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.
THE ONTARIO CO-OP EXPERIENCE
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 Credit Union, Alterna Savings or FirstOntario Credit Union.) 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.
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.
Co-operatives are corporations incorporated under Ontario's Co-operative Corporations Act. 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)
Other than a statutory requirement that the majority of their business must be conducted with their members (the 50% Rule), the CCA Act does not regulate the day to day business of a co-operative or the member-established by-laws under which it operates.
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) or as a non-profit (necessarily without share capital). Where co-operatives are incorporated with share capital, no offering statement is required for the basic membership share. For other classes of securities (subject to certain minimum statutory exemptions), before the security may be sold each prospective investor must be provided with an offering statement describing the security and containing disclosures required by the CCA Act.
On Co-op is one of nine provincial co-operative associations operating across Canada. While each reflects the needs of its provincial co-op system and member-owners, their mandates are similar.
ON CO-OP MANDATE: The Ontario Co-operative Association believes that co-operatives build a better world. We are the trade association 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 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 Ontario Worker Co-op Federation, Organization for Parent Participation in Childcare and Education Ontario, GROWMARK Inc, Central 1 Credit Union, Ontario Student Co-operative Association, Ontario Sustainable Energy Association, and the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada, Ontario Region. Almost all sector federations are members of On Co-op.
The Co-op Census 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. These extensive undertakings led to the creation of a map depicting all of the co-ops in Ontario (found in the related documents at the top right of this page), as well as our Find A Co-op Directory of Ontario co-ops. More information can be found on our census page.