Throughout the month of November, CMC’s very own Daniel P. Brunette, Senior Director of External Affairs, 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. During these meetings, Daniel met many fellow co-operative enthusiasts and continued important discussions about the significance of the co-operative ecosystem in Canada. Additionally, he was lucky enough to witness and listen to incredible stories from members as well as discovered some new and exciting co-operatives along the way!

Daniel started his travels by visiting the Battle River Railway NGC (BRR), in Forestburg, AB as he was already in the province to attend the ACCA Conference. Created in 2010, this 83.7 km shortline railway was purchased by local producers and residents after hearing it was about to close. Matthew Enright, General Manager, shared further details of the great and evolving story during their meeting. With more than 150 members and investors, this railway has built itself as a novel New Generation Co-operative, whose activities are focused on commodity transportation, storage, and tourism. In fact, the “Friends of Battle River Railway” non-profit is solely responsible for the tourism aspect. Fun fact: This railway was the subject of a case study as part of the Business Conversion to Co-operatives Project (Co-opConvert) and an important reason why CMC is advocating for a Tax-deferred Co-operative Share Program.

Following this, Daniel visited the Forestburg Co-op Seed Cleaning Plant Ltd. This is one of the 67 farmer-owned seed cleaning co-operatives found in Alberta, working under the banner of the Alberta Seed Processors (formerly known as the Association of Alberta Co-op Seed Plants Ltd). Longtime Manager Myron Felzien gave a facility tour explaining that the co-operative’s capacity to clean seed and grain locally is more time and cost effective for farmers, compared to using large centralized facilities. Established in 1966, this co-operative currently has 350 members who bring 500,000 to 800,000 bushels for processing each year—what an impressive number!

Daniel’s visit of the Blackfoot Grazing Association visit occurred in two parts—a site visit to the Cooking Lake—Blackfoot Grazing, Wildlife and Provincial Recreation Area East of Edmonton and a call with the Mike Fawcett, its President. The co-operative’s grazing fields are used under agreement with the province, as the remainder of the park is used for a variety of recreational outdoor activities. Although grazing has occurred there since the 1920s, the co-operative itself was not established until 1950. The 40 members are ranchers who own roughly 1,000 cow/calf pair allotments among each other. Did you know that grazing on crown land is more cost efficient than utilizing private pastures? That’s right! This is a perfect example of sustainability by using land that is not suitable for growing grains. CMC is aware of approximately 81 grazing co-operatives, the majority of them being in Western Canada. You can discover them by searching for “grazing” as a subcategory on the interactive co-operative map found on our website.

Heading to Edmonton’s French Quarter, he then met with the Coopérative de couture des travailleuses africaines francophones (CCTAF). This co-operative that was established in 2021, providing social and financial benefits for women of African descent in Edmonton. Established with the assistance of CMC’s member the Conseil de développement économique de l’Alberta (CDEA), the co-operative’s mission is to stimulate the entrepreneurial spirit, boost productivity, enhance the value of their work and support commercial endeavours. The CCTAF collaborates with the Multicultural Health Brokers Co-op and similar community organizations with its sights set on becoming the “go-to” place for custom pieces and larger orders of fabric-related items. These sales initiatives will ultimately create revenue opportunities for its 30 members and allow it to expand its services.

During his time in Alberta, Daniel also took the time to meet with Pamela Duggan, Constituency Assistant for Damien C. Kurek, the Conservative Member of Parliament for Battle-River-Crowfoot (AB). This meeting, a follow-up to one held previously in Ottawa, allowed CMC to gain a deeper understanding of the needs and realities of rural Alberta, and provided CMC with the opportunity to raise awareness about the co-operative enterprise model and encourage further engagement. Daniel also took the time to table CMC’s advocacy priorities, notably the need to make the Tax-deferred Co-operative Share Program permanent. Fun fact: 56 co-operatives are headquartered in the Battle-River-Crowfoot riding, which is 51,978 KM2, or roughly the size of Nova Scotia!

While driving to all these co-operatives and meetings, Daniel happily spotted various co-operative locations in the Albertan landscape. Some of these included a UFA Cardlock in Forestburg (which serves the Battle River Railway NGC among its clients), the Strome Seed Cleaning Co-op Ltd. plant in Strome, a Vision Credit Union in Camrose and a Servus Credit Union location in Edmonton.

Later in the month, Daniel attended the Canadian Worker Co-op Federation (CWCF)’s Conference and AGM, which was held in Quebec City. During his visit, he was able to discover various co-operatives, through a tour organized by the CWCF. The first co-operative was la Coop de yoga, established in by three instructors in 2021. The next co-operative was La Boîte à lune, a queer-centric tattoo parlour established in April 2023, where independent artists come together to share spaces and expenses. Lastly, the group visited MamboMambo, the well-established brand design and management co-operative established in 2014. At end of the day, the group had a wonderful meal at the famed La Barberie, a worker co-op microbrewery established in 1997.

On his last stop of the month, Daniel stopped at the SOCODEVI offices to discuss an upcoming mission. The organization supports co-operatives across the world and helps them to consolidate as mechanisms of inclusivity and sustainable socio-economic development. From improvements in value chains, to agroforestry systems, reproductive health, to agricultural insurance, and more, SOCODEVI is a partner on the ground and its work is supported, financially and through expertise, by an extensive network of co-operative and mutualist enterprises and institutions. In fact, last year, SOCODEVI worked on more than 30 projects in 17 countries, which effected on the lives of over 800,000 people!