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Co-op Quick Facts

With roots in England in the mid-1800s, co-operatives evolved as an economic/business model tailored to meet the specific needs of a defined group of people. Near the end of the 19th century, the concept took root in Quebec, which today is home to more co-ops than anywhere else on the continent. In Western Canada, the co-operative movement centred around the growth of the grain pools in each of the Prairie provinces as a means to help farmers source affordable inputs, and increase their marketing power on international markets.

Despite the fact that more than 2 million Ontarians are members of at least one co-operative, the general public, academics, business leaders and Government officials are by and large unaware of co-ops and their power as a positive economic and societal force. 

Strengthening communities. Creating jobs. Building resilience. 


  • Download Ontario co-operatives Facts and Stats factsheet here.
  • Co-ops are in every sector, and literally offer services from the cradle to the grave - from child care through to funeral co-ops.
  • Health care co-ops have lower per-capita health care costs than private practice models according to a federal study.
  • Co-operatives are educational by nature. A recent study by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation found that 75 per cent of housing co-op members improved their life skills because they lived in a co-op.
  • Ontario agricultural co-ops arrived in Ontario back in 1914, when farmers created two new organizations in Toronto in a bid to source fairly-priced twine from Ireland, and to provide a stronger farm voice.
  • Over 70,000 Canadians volunteer their time to serve on co-op and credit union boards.
  • In the north, co-operatives are the most important employer after government.
  • The first ATM was introduced by a credit union in Saskatchewan.
  • The survival rate of co-operative enterprises is almost twice that of investor-owned companies after five or 10 years in operation.
  • Learn more about the Rainbow Flag as the international co-operative symbol.
  • Learn more about how the Ontario co-op sector is organized.


On Co-op is currently conducting a comprehensive study on co-operative businesses and the impact have on the the City of Guelph. The report, to be completed by the end of February 2015, will shed light on the social, economic and environmental impact of co-operatives and credit unions within the region. A co-operative examination of this length has never been done in Ontario and will be released free of charge to anyone an everyone who can use it to their benefit. 

On Co-op is choosing Guelph as a representative environment to study because it is a thriving incubator for co-operatives of all kinds. The study in progress points to this diverse array of businesses and aims to show the size, scope, and general vitality of the co-op sector in Ontario. To learn more about the study, visit the following link and keep an eye out for future updates. 

To view the Media Release visit the "downloads" section on the right or click HERE.

economic and environmental impact of co-operatives and credit unions within the City of Guelph.socialeconomic and environmental impact of co-operatives and credit unions within the City of Guelph.


Co-ops are a way for communities to exercise control over the economic, social and cultural activities that affect the lives of community members. Establishing co-operatives and credit unions in our communities (or for a community of people) is a powerful and democratic way to put economic power in the hands of those who need and use the services.

Rooted in the community by member participation and commitment, co-operatives are are an example of community economic development in practice. Co-operatives and credit unions are directed locally and invested-in locally. Since the surplus of co-op enterprises belong to their members, profits and  investment dollars stay within the community. The multiplier effect of co-ops is far greater than that provided by private businesses, especially if those businesses are based outside the community.

At the core of every co-op's history is an unmet need for: financial services, employment, a specific product or service, affordable housing, a marketing service or more participation in community development. But rather than create a conventional investor-owned or government-controlled structure, co-op founders and future members are attracted to the idea of collective, community solutions to meet individual needs.


Co-ops have multiple bottom lines that include social as well as economic (or financial) objectives. While members are always concerned about financial viability of the co-op, their main objective is to maintain access to the product or service supplied by the co-op, not to increase the rate of return on their investment.

Co-op members also recognize the value of local dollars staying in the community where they reinforce the local economy. As a result, co-ops tend to be stable structures that grow with the community and contribute to community sustainability.

In many communities, co-operatives have stayed to serve their members long after other businesses have fled to more profitable locales. For example, there are numerous communities in Ontario where credit unions are the only source of financial services.

For more information on the co-operative model, visit the All About Co-operatives section of our website.


Risk Management

Oct 1, 2015 - Introduction to Co-op Guard

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34th Annual Directors' Forum Conference

Oct 11, 2018 + others - Directors of credit unions and caisses populaires are invited to join us for a unique learning, professional development and networking opportunity! New as well as young Directors are also highly encouraged to attend!

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The On Co-op e-Directory is a comprehensive listing of more than 1,300 Ontario-based Co-operatives, Credit Unions and Caisse Populaires. Search by city, name, type of co-op or keyword.

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On Co-op is a trade association and capacity-building organization that develops, engages, educates and advocates for Ontario's co-op businesses.