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June 2003

    BCCA Founding to Boost Co-op Movement

    Marco Procaccini

    BC’s cooperative movement will get a real shot in the arm, if the founding convention of the BC Cooperative Association is any indication.

    “Over the next two years, our priorities will be to build a cooperative support infrastructure for economic development, building stronger links with credit unions and training and education,” says BCCA Regional Manager John Restakis. “We formed the BCCA because we need a local organization that is more responsive to the needs of local co-ops and communities.”

    The new organization is an inheritor from the BC section of the Canadian Cooperative Association, the national central that represents cooperative enterprises across the country. Restakis says the BC section was merely an extension of the CCA and did not have the autonomy it needed to effectively deal with local and provincial issues facing co-ops today.

    However, the new provincial organization will remain as an affiliate to the national body, he says, with all of the existing development and educational programs intact. “But now they will be administered here by the BCCA,” Restakis said.

    The BCCA, like the national organization, is funded primarily via membership dues from affiliated cooperatives, as well as various project and educational grants from governments, educational foundations and affiliated co-ops and credit unions.

    But Restakis also sees opportunities to work with BC’s labour and First Nations movements on co-op and community economic development projects. In recent years, there has been renewed interest among many unions in economic democracy and similar developments.

    The BCCA has helped put together two community health service co-ops in the Interior, which have been working with both Hospital Employees Union and the Nurses.

    These are community-based initiatives to deal with the massive health care cuts and privatization measures by the provincial government. Restakis says co-op models can be used by communities and unions to challenge these often oppressive and austere measures.

    “(The Liberal government’s) policies create a two-pronged situation,” he said. “It’s devastating from a service point of view as the loss of these services are a huge problem for communities. On the other hand, it creates opportunities for communities to organize co-ops and take control of their economic destiny.”


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