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We are in the same storm, not the same boat.

As we are in Phase 2 restarting, we ask ourselves: What do we want our community to look like? What did we learn from our time of self-isolation? What will be our economy?

At CCEC, we support a just recovery for all. We agree that now is the time to move forward with innovative, progressive recovery and rebuilding plans with a strong focus on social spending. Now is the time to invest in rebuilding our communities and cities based on care and compassion.

We cannot go back to the way things were. We are seeing the results of chronic underinvestment and inaction in the face of the ongoing, pre-existing crises of colonialism, human rights abuses, social inequity, ecological degradation, and climate change. We see that the people most impacted by the inequities are those living in poverty, women, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), racialized, newcomer and LGBTQ2S+ communities, people with disabilities, and seniors. We are seeing that the situation is forcing governments and civil society to face the inadequacies and inequities of our systems. There is no going back as “normal” caused our current situation and problems.

The recently formed Just Recovery Canada, an informal alliance of more than 150 civil society groups, have released “Six Principles for a Just Recovery.” The principles ask that all recovery plans being created by governments and civil society:

  1. put people’s health and wellbeing first;
  2. strengthen the social safety net and provide relief directly to people;
  3. prioritize the needs of workers and communities;
  4. build resilience to prevent future crises;
  5. build solidarity and equity across communities, generations and borders; and
  6. uphold Indigenous rights and work in partnership with Indigenous people.

The principles aim to capture the immense amount of care work happening throughout Canadian civil society right now and present a vision of a Just Recovery that leaves no one behind.

 

Now is the time to get involved and fight for a Just Recovery. We need to be on the path toward an equitable and sustainable future. 

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My book, The Co-op Revolution (Caitlin Press), talks about Roger Inman, CCEC and 1970's co-ops.  It is an account of my time with the co-op movement in Vancouver’s activist years of the 1970s. I was a founder and member of CRS Workers’ Co-op, an organization that was owned and managed by us. We started four projects in Vancouver, all to do with food production and distribution: a cannery that preserved BC fruit in honey, a beekeeping co-op, a bakery and a food wholesaler. As well, we helped other small food co-ops get started.

Sometime in the autumn of 1975 Michael Goldstein showed up at the Pandora Street office of CRS Workers’ Co-op with a sheaf of documents in hand. We knew that the co-op movement possessed its own form of financial institution founded by the people, for the people’s well-being. So when Michael told our group that he and others were trying to organize just such a credit union to be called CCEC, we were happy to sign up. Several of us signed on a charter document that night and some of us expressed interest on serving on the new credit union’s committees when it received its charter in 1976. Right on!—as we said in those days. This was what co-operatives needed—access to funds that were not governed by the big business of Canada's banks or subject to the day’s political whims. The credit union movement would be a big boon to women in business as well, recognizing their abilities to manage a loan without requiring a man at the helm.

From The Co-op Revolution: “Most of us opened our personal share/saving accounts at CCEC when it moved to its first real office at 205 E. 6th Avenue. I was member number 32 and my deposit card reports that on March 4, 1976, I deposited $4 to open my account, after which the deposits and withdrawals continued sporadically until 1981. That first transaction was initialed by K, which probably stood for Katherine Ruffen, the first manager.

The best thing about this credit union was its personal service in the days before ATM machines. If I had neglected to withdraw cash on a Friday for the weekend’s activities, I could call Katherine at work and tell her I was on my way. “Please don’t leave until I get there,” I would say, and I would arrive minutes before closing time.  It’s doubtful whether any bank or credit union today would be concerned about my lack of cash for the weekend.” 

One member of our co-op, Roger Inman, served CCEC Credit Union loyally and after his death in 1989 a memorial award commemorated his work. The award is given by CCEC annually in recognition of a project that has made a significant contribution to the economic development of the community. And that’s how Roger would have wanted it.  

I first met Roger in 1975 when I moved to Vancouver from Ontario. He had moved from Winnipeg around the same time with his tent in his backpack and had heard about CRS starting the Tunnel Canary cannery. He didn’t know much about co-ops or canning at the time but he was most enthusiastic about the project and his sense of humour helped us to get through some of the hot, labour intensive work of processing fruit and jam. Roger continued to work with the cannery collective until its demise when he turned to another CRS project, Uprising Breads Bakery.

There’s more about Roger and other CRS workers in my book, The Co-op Revolution. I’ll be reading from it at the Vancouver Public Library main branch on Tuesday, April 23 at 7 p.m. All are welcome to attend and books will be for sale. (For more, see: jandegrass.com).

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More than fifty members came out to the CCEC Annual General Meeting February 6th, to consider ordinary business and four special resolutions.  Special resolutions - which require 18 days notice and 2/3 majority support - are needed to alter the CCEC Rules (or 'bylaws').

The board proposed four Rule changes; texts and rationale had been circulated well in advance.  Director Shannon Daub presented these to the meeting, specifically saying that these changes were presented separately so that members would have the opportunity to consider each change on its own merits.  

In the end, three of the changes were carried by substantial majorities. These included (1) a prohibition of employees sitting as directors, (2) a charge to the nominating committee to inquire into candidates' potential conflicts of interest and report out on these to members, and (3) giving limited authority to the board to remove a director for misconduct, failure to attend to duties, or if they were obliged to resign by law and had not.  In the debate several particulars were highlighted, such as possible conflicts that may result in Rules texts, and the board will be looking into these more closely.   

Special resolution #4 failed. That change would have enabled the directors to introduce the use of electronic notices and voting, subject to statutory restrictions.  The principal concern expressed by those speaking against the motion related to electronic voting.  There was a view that CCEC should not proceed down such a path without much more careful planning and proposals. 

Within the context of these debates, but also receipt of other reports and elections, the meeting was lively and constructive.  All feedback on the meeting that has been offered subsequently has been positive and we thank all those attending for there contributions.

​The successful special resolutions have now been filed with the Superintendent, and the board will be reconsidering the various matters arising in the next few months. 

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Control is a complex subject.  In our increasingly centralized and corporate world, control is concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer people.  In this era of globalism we have some very large companies that have enormous influence.  Unfortunately, we then are confronted with how we can hold these billionaires and financiers accountable.  Governments even start to look small by comparison. Voting in our elections may provide leverage but big money is at play in elections too.  But beyond government, communities may assume 'ownership' directly.

Co-operative democratic ownership is a radical alternative model for organizing commerce, as is the democratic non-profit association.  It is through these models real 'DEMOCRACY' is achieved.  But these models rely on people to step up and participate, in pursuit of the common good.  The crux is for individuals to realize that a vote, every few years, is a bare minimum.  Responsible citizenship requires more of us. 

Corporate capitalism asserts that 'markets' will hold commercial enterprises accountable.  However, this has not proven to be the case; government regulation is needed to ensure transparency, safety, equitable treatment, and reasonable choice. And regulation is a constant field of struggle.  In addition, the dominant corporate model has two major shortcomings - the tendency to consolidate (create monopolies) and the tendency to place higher costs on those on the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder (e.g. payday lenders). 

The co-operative model, like the one we have at CCEC, gives consumer members the ownership responsibilities.  Ordinary people (though their representatives) assume control.  In this community ownership model 'profit maximization' is not the primary objective.  

In BC and in Canada the co-operative model is in some stress.  While some large co-ops and credit unions appear to be successful, the role of the members-owners has been eroded.  Democracy has been diminished. Small co-ops and projects become even more important.  Participation is key - as directors, on advisory committees, and as volunteers - that ensures 'control' rests with the people, but also generates debate, innovation and social change.

Democracy relies on ordinary people taking part, stepping up, and 'seizing' control in service of the common  good.

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Check out this video from the Tyee as they explain the three proportional representation voting systems proposed by Attorney General David Eby. This fall in the electoral reform referendum, British Columbians will be asked whether they wish to switch from first-past-the-post to an electoral system of proportional representation. They will then be asked to rank three different proportional representation systems:

  • Mixed-member proportional
  • Rural-urban proportional
  • dual-member proportional.

If this referendum moves forward, the ballots will be mail-in.

An informed vote will require a comprehensive understanding of our current system in addition to the proposed alternatives. Be sure to follow The Tyee as they explore the issues.

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A recent book by Nancy McLean presents an unnerving overview of the 'plot' being pursued by wealthy Americans to permanently install the privileged classes (and undermine traditional democracy) - Democracy in Chains.

This blog post from the Institute for New Economic Thinking provides a quick and stirring overview of the research and the story.  McLean has stumbled upon the work of an obscure, and shadowy economist named James McGill Buchanan who may have been the architect of the libertarian revolution being pursued in the United States over the last quarter century.  Buchanan wrote widely on the interests of those with 'property' and how those interests could and should be preserved.The Koch brothers were keen supporters of Buchanan's work.

The book outlines how the efforts on many fronts, from a biased judiciary to a hobbled legislature, have all been part of a comprehensive vision to preserve the wealth and power of a self-righteous elite.  It challenges progressive people to think bigger, and to reconsider the political landscape.  Those who are committed to the ideal of democracy, and to a socially just world, need stand up. Ordinary people must protect the fundamental institutions and principles of liberal democracy. Buchanan counsels the 1% to re-write constitutions and legislation to the disadvantage of 'everyone else'; to construct a cozy relationship where governments simply serve the interests of the uber wealthy. The extent to which his ideas are being implemented is frightening.    

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Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein's newest book is called NO IS NOT ENOUGH, and it is a call out to communities, thinking people, and progressive politicians. She sat down with Charlie Demers at a Writers Festival event on June 24th and laid out the essential arguments for constructive change - environmentally, socially, and economically. 

At the core, she emphasizes that resistance, saying no and protesting, is not going to be enough.  She contends that 'reacting' to a rapacious agenda the degrades the planet and consigns millions of people to poverty, or worse, is only a first step.  She sees the need for progressives to fashion a strong, fresh, and vital agenda that can contest the field in democracies, especially the USA. And also, she sees the need for communities, municipalities, and local governments to pick up the bigger challenges - and not wait for 'big government' to take action. 

The book largely pivots on the new directions, statements, and behavior of the new leader of the free world.  She entertainingly and succinctly lays out the 'brand management' tactics of the new president.  There are echoes of her previous books No Logo, and This Changes Everything. But she also includes observations on the recent BC election and the UK election.  In those cases she was heartened by the championing of truly progressive and exciting policies, broadening the discussion of what can be done by government. She noted that these visions were supported by voters.

The argument goes further than electoral politics, however. Ordinary people and community-based initiatives are also needed - both to effect action and to hold governments accountable.  Naomi Klein was referencing the Women's March and other events that are prompting people to get involved and take greater responsibility for a whole host of issues; immigration and refugees, housing, health services, education, transportation... In this context, CCEC and the many community groups we bring together are primary examples.

The challenge to the hundreds in the audience that evening was simple, 'It is up to you, us, to develop a vigorous, positive plan for the future; and put it in place.'

 

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The second largest credit union in BC is applying to become a bank.  Coast Capital Savings (@500k members at @$16B in assets) has made an application to the provincial regulator, FICOM, for permission to be continued under The Bank Act as a federally incorporated entity.  FICOM is requesting public input, so let's encourage people to write. [Added: CCEC submission Mar 28, 2017.]

The Bank Act was amended three years ago to allow for 'federal credit unions' as a type of bank. The federal government has taken other steps to induce or coerce larger credit unions to move to that jurisdiction. Coast is the first from BC to move down this path, a special resolution was put to that credit union membership in November, with very little supporting information and no real debate.  Now, FICOM has to review the proposal.

A more complete explanation may be found at www.cufutures.ca  A blog post there outlines many concerns.(other information is at www.governancewatch.ca )

But two big questions arise;

  1. Are credit unions not inherently local, self-help responses to a big national bank oligopoly?  This conversion abandons the model of a network of locally based, democratically controlled financial co-ops.  
  2. And will the departure of these large credit unions undermine the viability of the real credit unions that remain?  We must ensure the legacy of several generations, the credit unions of BC, are not undermined and placed at risk.

RG

 

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Even Warren Buffet is saying, “Tax me!”  So why do we think that people living in Vancouver can survive on $610 per month?   In the most expensive City to live in North America (2013)  singles on welfare get only $610.

It is 10 years since Raise the Rates was established (and joined CCEC), but we would prefer that there was no need for them to exist. If only our politicians would buy-in to a living wage for all residents, and agree that it is not acceptable that BC has had the highest child poverty rate in Canada.   800,000 British Columbians are living in poverty, and that 1 in 8 people are food insecure.  Did you know that the poverty line in BC is around $1,500 a month?

Poverty is a political choice. We can afford to abolish poverty.  We are the only province that doesn’t have a Poverty Reduction Strategy.  Two recent polls showed that 78% of people in BC want a poverty reduction plan and the most important issue is poverty, housing, and homelessness.  More British Columbians are having difficulty dealing with the increasing cost of living, and are compromising on our food choices as our real incomes have stagnated.(BIV Insights West BC Gov’t Report Card, May 2016).  And, we know that hunger is a result of poverty.  Are you surprised that at least half of the new Canadians (Syrian refugees), are using the Food Bank? 

Basic welfare has been frozen at $610 a month since April 2007.  Bill Hopwood, Organizer and Activist with Raise the Rates says, “Nine years ago, you could rent a crummy SRO in the Downtown Eastside for $375 a month, now the average cheapest rent is $517.  Rents for the worst housing has increased $142 in 9 years, but no increase in welfare.  After rent and other necessities, a person on welfare has $93 left each month to pay for food, clothing, hygiene, a phone and transit which means $10 a week for food.  The cost of living index has gone up 15%.”  At the recent Vancouver Food Summit held at Gordon Neighbourhood House, the panel on Poverty: What can food policy do?  unanimously agreed that the Welfare Food Challenge, the annual event for Raise the Rates is impossible.  You simply cannot eat a healthy diet living on welfare.  In 2015, Kathy Romses, Dietician and Challenge Participant commented, “Social isolation was a challenge as meals with family and friends or meetings at the coffee shop were not an option.  Trying to guard limited food doesn’t help build or maintain relationships with friends and family.”

For people with disabilities the government announced the first increase in 9 years on the rate of $906 – up by $77.  That is not even half of what is needed to keep pace with inflation.  BUT, they stole most of it back.  They scrapped the free bus pass and now people have to pay $52 a month for the pass so the increase is only $25 a month.  Compare BC with Alberta’s rate at $1,588 a month.

Poverty is a political choice.The government makes it as difficult as possible to even claim welfare - watch the video -

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while being extra generous to very rich.  Last year the government gave $227 million in tax cuts to the richest people in BC on top of the $billions they have already received in tax handouts. The minimum wage was increased by 20 cents an hour and no increase in welfare.  Bill says, “The government chooses to feed the rich by starving workers and the poor.” 

One of the biggest challenges facing Raise the Rates according to Bill is keeping their activists confident when they see the abject failure of politicians to take seriously raising welfare rates.  Everyone in BC should live above the poverty line – we can afford it, it would make BC a much healthier place and in the medium term save money. Read the report from Policy Alternatives on the Cost of Poverty.  How can politicians support policies that keep people in poverty?  Yet, Bill say, “Can you tell me a politician who is advocating for welfare of $1,500 a month?”

Movements make change and we have to build public support to push politicians to act.  Welfare Rates need to be Raised.  Raise the Rates will continue to campaign.

JUSTICE not CHARITY.  WE need a HAND UP not a HAND OUT.  Isn’t it time we took a stand?  2017 is a Provincial election year.  Get involved.  Make your vote count.  

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Say NO to Kinder Morgan.

The National Energy Board has approved the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline with numerous conditions.  “It was always likely to be approved.  But we know this megaproject is not in the economic and social interests of our members” says Helesia Luke, CCEC Board Member.  Vancouver Mayor Robertson says, “NEB pipeline process a 'sham,' new Liberal plan not much better.”  Peter McCartney, Climate Campaigner with the Wilderness Committee says, “The NEB has ignored and wasted the time of countless communities, First Nations and individuals who have stood up to oppose this irresponsible pipeline proposal.” 

McCartney continues by saying, “British Columbians have made it crystal clear this pipeline is not welcome in our communities.  No new process is going to change the widespread Indigenous opposition, the unacceptable risk of a spill, the massive climate impacts or the shoddy economics of this project.”

You may recall that CCEC Credit Union was granted Intervenor status, the only financial institution to do so.  We held a public forum in June 2014, over concern that the NEB process was not open, accessible and objective.  We wanted to make the debate more public and complete.  Read the blog

We need everyone to turn out to the meetings in the coming months to show Ottawa and the rest of the country that when we say no – we mean it.  We also need to turn the heat up on our MPs in the Lower Mainland.  Write letters, call offices, show up at events.  Our representatives must put a stop to this! 

Speak Out Against Kinder Morgan!  Learn more – see the map posted by the Wilderness Committee of community and First Nation concerns, and a pledge form where you can find out details of the meetings as they become clear.

 

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