As the middle class shrinks and the notorious “one per cent” grows wealthier, this Saturday presents an ideal opportunity to reflect on a more cooperative method of economic growth.
July 7 is the International Day of Co-operatives, recognized annually by both the United Nations and the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) on the first Saturday of July. This year, however, the date has even more significance, as the UN has also declared 2012 “the International Year of Co-operatives.”
In honour of the designation, Comox District Co-op, which has more than 4,500 members and has been active in the Comox Valley since 1960, has purchased two event tents that it’s making available free of charge to local charities. Charity groups can book the tents for events by calling 250-338-8181 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Designating an International Year of Co-operatives is obviously very meaningful to us,” says Richard Kerton, manager of Comox District Co-op. “It acknowledges something we’ve been saying all along, which is that co-operatives represent an attractive alternative to the prevailing economic ethos of profit at all costs.”
A co-op is a business enterprise that’s owned and controlled by the members it serves. Comox District Co-op members, for example, receive an annual dividend cheque based on their purchases over the previous year. This year’s dividends totalled more than $400,000 and represented a 6.3 cent-per-litre refund on regular gasoline.
It’s been estimated that one in three Canadians is a member of a co-op. In the Comox Valley, says Kerton, many members join the co-op simply because it makes economic sense to get paid for everyday shopping, although he also points to the social benefits. Major decisions in a co-op, he explains, are made democratically, which effectively balances the pursuit of profit with the needs and interests of the community.
Each year, Comox co-op members select several local charities to support financially. Additionally, most of the money spent by the Co-op over the regular course of business stays here in the Valley.
To learn more about the Comox District Co-op, call 250-338-8181 or visit www.comoxvalleycoop.ca. For more on the International Year of the Cooperative, visit www.ica.coop.