This June, Daniel P. Brunette, Senior Director of External Affairs, once again travelled across the country visiting many different co-operatives and mutuals as a part of CMC’s goal to increase the visibility of the sector and to support to its members’ endeavours.

From 2 to 4 June, CMC was pleased to again be invited to present and engage with the Community Futures/CBDC network, this time at the Community Futures Ontario Conference in Sault-Ste. Marie. Daniel delivered a workshop to help attendees understand the breath of the co-operative movement. The workshop also encouraged participants to examine their own operations and policies to ensure that they were accessible to co-operative enterprises. Collectively, the Community Futures Network of Canada coordinates $2 billion in rural financing across 267 offices, funding that is provided by the Government of Canada through its Regional Development Agencies. We encourage you to use their map to find the office serving your area.

During the conference, Daniel took some time to participate in the inaugural “Co-op Connections” event, the first in a virtual series of meetings hosted by the Manitoba Co-operative Association (MCA). Daniel provided an overview of the Canadian co-op landscape to the participants, and then engaged with the various stakeholders alongside Vera Goussaert (Executive Director) and Carinna D’Abramo Rosales, First Vice-Chair of MCA and Co-Director (External Relations) for SEED Winnipeg Inc.

After arriving home from his travels in “The Soo,” Daniel packed up his bags and headed East, as he drove from Ontario to Nova Scotia in order to attend the Congress in Halifax. This time, Matthis Perrard from the CMC’s Canada’s Emerging Co-operators, and Consultant-Strategy at Impact ON joined him on his adventures. The pair were lucky enough to meet incredible folks and listen to remarkable stories and discovered some new and exciting co-operatives along the way! Their journey was mapped out thanks to the CMC’s co-operatives and mutuals map, which helped identify potential locations along the way.

The adventure began with a quick stop at the Caisse Desjardins des Basques, one of 204 locations (and neither the first nor the last location seen along the way), which was followed by a visit to the Magasin Coop IGA de Trois Pistoles, one of five retail locations that are part of Alimentation Coop Rimouski. That day’s journey continued on to Rimouski, where the final meal of the day was picked up at the Central Café Coop de Solidarité. This must-stop, iconic downtown restaurant with a great atmosphere was converted to a worker co-operative almost a decade ago.

The following day began with two stops in Amqui—the first at the Marché Richelieu d’Amqui, a grocery store that has been in operation for more than 45 years, and the second at Cinema Figaro. The latter became a co-operative in 2003 when residents came together to open a local movie theatre, after the town’s original cinema closed in 1985. And finally, the last stop that day in Quebec was at the Quilles Causap, coop de solidarité, a nonprofit co-operative established in 2018 through a co-op conversion (and one of five known bowling co-ops!)

The road then led to New Brunswick, with a first stop at the producer co-operative Bathurst Agricultural Society #3, a farm feed/supply store. While in Bathurst, Daniel and Matthis also heard about the inaugural Coop Air Au Cube Nomad Circus Festival that is going to be held on the Acadian Peninsula in July. The rest of the road remained co-op free, as they headed to Halifax for Congress.

On 10 June, the evening before Congress, Daniel participated in the Canadian Worker Co-op Federation (CWCF) mixer hosted at the Glitter Bean Café. The evening included a screening of the documentary film (R)evolution, followed by a few speakers and networking opportunities between local co-operative members, developers, educators and allies. Understandably, the recent federal budget announcement of the $10 million exemption from taxation on capital gains realized on the sale of a business for owners to sell to their employees was the topic of discussion. Although originally intended for Employee Ownership Trusts only, the initiative has now expanded to worker co-operatives thanks to joint advocacy work of CWCF and CMC. The harmonization of this incentive, and ongoing efforts related to it, will level the field, and further enable opportunities for conversions to worker co-operatives.

After another amazing Congress, Daniel and Matthis headed back on the road to return home, opting to drive by the Canada-US border region. The pair stopped at Avantis Coopérative BMR Express in Pohénégamook, which was a stone throw from Northern Maine. This co-operative is the result of the merger of six agricultural co-operatives, which now has sales of more than 650 million dollars. Not only does Avantis provide agricultural products and services, it also operates 28 hardware/renovation centres, ten farm machinery sales locations, five convenience stores/gas stations, one grocery store all within the Ile d’Orléans, Chaudière-Appalaches and Bas-St-Laurent regions.

The next stop was an Agrizone location in Saint-Alexandre-de-Kamouraska, which is part of Unoria Coopérative. This co-operative includes feed mill, 13 hardware stores, 5 service stations, 2 machinery garages and a farm equipment dealership. Fun fact: both Avantis Coopérative and Unoria Coopérative are both members for Sollio Co-operative Group, a CMC member.

The return trip then paused in Montmagny, home of the Coopérative du journal L’Oie Blanche, which was established in 1985. It currently has 185 members and has a circulation of 18,600 in the Montmagny, L’Islet and the Bellechasse area.

And finally, the last co-operative stop on the trip was in Lévis, where Matthis was able to stand in the study of the home that Alphonse and Dorimène Desjardins shared for the first time.