The Potential of Co-operatives just got a boost
If ever there was a sleeping giant of an economic engine in New Brunswick, it would be co-operatives, and this sector is now set to grow. While successive provincial governments have long placed their priority on chasing investment from outside the region, plying everybody from Sears to call centres with everything from wage subsidies to tax breaks, the real economic potential has always been right here in front of us. It’s Co-operatives and Social Enterprises.
Let’s play did you know.
Did you know that there are more than 700 co-ops and social enterprises in New Brunswick?
Did you know they generate nearly $2 Billion in revenues every year?
Did you know they provide full-time jobs to approximately 16,000 New Brunswickers?
Did you know they grow, on average, at three times the rate of the economy in general?
Did you know they create jobs at five times the rate of traditional companies?
And did you know that they have a lifespan, on average, double that of other companies?
So let’s just cut to the chase here and realize that co-operatives and social enterprises are a significant part of our provincial economy, and that is especially true in our rural areas. Whether it is forestry, agriculture, housing, energy, transportation, arts and culture – whatever the sector, there are co-ops involved in it and many are thriving.
And while the CECNB (Cooperative Enterprise Council of New Brunswick) has long been a driving force in helping co-ops and social enterprises get established and grow, the Council has always faced a frustrating battle trying to get government to realize the potential cooperatives represent, and to support them as such.
But for whatever reason, perhaps because helping a cooperative or social enterprise doesn’t often include the photo-op and high profile story that comes from bringing in a new company from elsewhere, or maybe it is because government focus is more on growth in our cities, or maybe it is simply a government bias in favour of traditional companies, but for whatever reasons, there has always been somewhat of a disconnect between cooperatives and the government of the day.
On Friday past though, there was a major breakthrough.
Legislation in the form of a new Co-operative Associations Act received Royal Assent. This is something the CECNB has been pushing for, for over a decade, so a large tip of the hat to the Higgs government for finally seeing this over the finish line.
What this means, in a nutshell, is that it will now be easier for co-operatives to form and grow. Specifically it makes it easier to attract local investors and create local prosperity.
While this is obviously a positive step to grow the economy and create jobs, especially in rural areas, the benefit goes well beyond the money. Many of these co-ops and social enterprises create opportunities for immigrants, First Nations and marginalized populations. The focus is on enterprises driven by a social conscience, whether in diversity, culture or the environment. So the more of that we develop, the richer a province we will be, in every sense of the word.
Disclaimer – I am a member of the board of CECNB, so while you could argue I have a bias here, I prefer to look at it as my having more than an average insight into what cooperatives and social enterprises can accomplish.
Cover photo: Some of the folks with the NB Filmmakers Co-op in Fredericton on their way out the door to work on a video project.
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