See below for a brief description of On Co-op's current and future objectives regarding Government Relations. For a timeline of past activities, visit our "Past Initiatives" page.
On Co-op continues to advocate for co-operative businesses and bring forward issues and barriers faced by co-operatives to the Ontario government. Download our positoin papers from the links at right. We also provide advocacy tools and guidance to allow co-operatives to bring forward their own recommendations that benefit individual co-ops and their communities.
- SUMMARY OF 2016 INITIATIVES TO DATE
- 2016 ONTARIO BUDGET HINTS AT CHANGES TO CO-OPERATIVE LEGISLATION
- PRELIMINARY REPORT RECOMMENDS CO-OP OVERSIGHT LEAVE FSCO
- CURRENT OBJECTIVES
- FUTURE OBJECTIVES
- CHANGES TO THE CO-OP CORPORATIONS ACT
- ALL PARTY CO-OP CAUCUS MEETINGS
Summary of 2016 Initiatives to Date
Building Strong Relations through Active Engagement
As summer heats up, so does our government relations work! For some time now, we have been making considerable efforts to advance our message and achieve legislative changes.
In March 2016, alongside Conseil de la coopération de l'Ontario (CCO), we hosted two Caucus Breakfasts (in addition to the two Caucus Breakfasts held in 2015). The goal was to raise awareness of the co-op sector among MPPs as well as our political objectives.
The first, on March 1, was led by NDP Co-op Caucus Chair Percy Hatfield MPP (Windsor-Tecumseh), NDP Municipal Affairs and Housing Critic. Nineteen MPPs attended the event, including then Education Minister Liz Sandals, MPP (Guelph).
The second caucus breakfast was held on March 22 and was led by Liberal Co-op Caucus Chair, Marie-France Lalonde MPP (Ottawa-Orléans), then Chief Government Whip, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs and to the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure. Ms. Lalonde was made Government and Consumer Services Minister and Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs in the June 13 cabinet shuffle. Twenty-two MPPs attended the breakfast.
On May 2, On Co-op, and CCO representatives participated in a lobby day. Through the day we met with Chris Ballard MPP (Newmarket-Aurora), then Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Government and Consumer Services and now Minister of Energy, Jim McDonnell MPP (Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry), Critic, Government and Consumer Services, Jagmeet Singh MPP (Bramalea-Gore-Malton), Deputy NDP Leader and Critic for Government and Consumer Service, two of the Premier’s Policy Advisors Jacob Mksyartinian and Alex Phillips, Peter Milczyn MPP (Etobicoke-Lakeshore), then Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure (Infrastructure), Chair, Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, and Minister Albanese.
The day culminated in a reception, which saw the attendance of many co-op sector members, along with 7 Ministers, 26 MPPs and Opposition Critics.
After a brief pause, we are building on the success from earlier in the year and renewing our efforts to achieve our political objectives. Below are the three initial recommendations that we have made to improve access of government services across the province:
- Transition non-financial co-operative policy oversight to MEDEI;
- Move non-financial co-operative legislation oversight to MGCS to utilize Service Ontario for the incorporation of co-operatives;
- Initiate a review of the 41 year old Co-operative Corporations Act (CCA).
With the assistance of the Brown & Cohen team, who provided government relations support for the Caucus breakfasts and Queen’s Park Lobby Day, we are supported in helping to achieve our goals and well on our way to making ourselves heard at Queen’s Park.
2016 Ontario Budget Hints at Changes to Co-op Legislation
The Ontario budget, released on February 25th, hints of possible legislative changes for Ontario’s co-operatives. On Co-op has been working with the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO, our regulator) and the Ministry of Finance on changes to our 41-year old Co-operative Corporations Act since well before the last minor changes were announced in 2009.
No timeline was given by the government for the changes, nor was any mention made of what the changes could be. We will continue to work closely with elected officials and government policy staff to modernize the regulatory framework for Ontario’s co-operatives, including at the two all-party Co-operative Caucus meetings at Queen’s Park next month, and during a lobbying & advocacy day that will take place in May.
On Co-op has dramatically increased the time and money is has allocated to government relations activities over the past twelve months, and will be further increasing our government relations efforts in the fiscal year that begins April 1. In the last year alone, the Ontario Co-operative Sector Government Relations Committee (a joint venture between On Co-op and the Conseil de la coopération de l’Ontario) made a number of presentations and submitted a series of strategic recommendations to the government for legislative change and a shift in what government ministry would oversee non-financial co-operatives. On Co-op and CCO jointly presented three position papers on what we consider to be our immediate asks for changes to co-op legislation.
PRELIMINARY REPORT RECOMMENDS CO-OP OVERSIGHT LEAVE FSCO
A preliminary report from an independant Panel reviewing the mandate of the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) has recommended that oversight of co-operatives move out of FSCO. The report further recommends that the administration and regulatory oversight of the Co-operative Corporations Act and the incorporation of co-operative businesses should be transferred to the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services (MGCS).
In its response to the preliminary report, On Co-op and the Conseil de la cooperation de l’Ontario – through our joint Ontario Co-op Sector Government Relations Committee (GRC) – applauded the Panel for its position and urged it to adopt the co-op sectors’ additional recommendations, which include:
- That policy oversight of all types of co-ops(except credit unions/caisse populaires) should move away from FSCO (or its successor organization). And that non-regulatory oversight of co-operatives be transferred to the Ministry of Economic Development Employment and Infrastructure, in a renamed Social Enterprise and Co-ops Branch.
- That the administration and regulatory oversight the Co-operative Corporations Act and the incorporation of co-operative businesses should be transferred to the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services.
- That review and receipting of Offering Statements remain at FSCO or its successor organization and not move to the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC).
- That co-operatives be added to the types of companies that will be allowed to raise capital through Offering Memorandums that will be introduced in Ontario in early 2016.
- And that our recommendations for updates to co-operative legislation (already on file with the government) occur at the same time, with a full legislative review of the 41-year-old Actto take place within five years.
CLICK ON THE LINK AT RIGHT TO READ THE CO-OP SECTOR'S RESPONSE LETTER.
The report is only preliminary, with the final report and recommendations to be issued sometime in 2016. The government is not obligated to act on the report.
OUR CURRENT OBJECTIVES
On Co-op has worked hard over the years to engage the Province by increasing their awareness and understanding of the co-operative model and sector in Ontario. Refer to the “Past Initiatives” page for a timeline of activities that contrubited to our accomplishments. We have also worked regularly with government to encourage legislative reform in the hope of improving the policy environment for co-operative business enterprises.
These efforts will continue to be part of our short and long-term priorities, however, we will not lose sight of our ultimate goal: to achieve viable partnerships with the Ontario Government through relevant ministries. When compared with many other Canadian provinces (who have created Provincial Co-operative Secretariats, departments or offices), the Ontario Government's partnership with the co-operative sector is notably absent. A provincial analysis of public/ co-operative partnerships is available at the top right of this page under "downloads."
On Co-op and CCO, our francophone counterpart, have created a list of THREE key recommendations for change: Download the full recommendation position paper from the link at right:
- Move co-operative oversight from FSCO to MGCS
- Utilize Service Ontario for the incorporation of co-operatives.
- Implement sector-based recommendations for changes to co-operative legislation (download the list of recommendations from the links at right).
We also continue to provide our members and the Ontario co-operative sector with the tools to champion their own issues and community requirements to public policy officials and governments of all levels. To assist co-operatives in this endeavour, we have created a number of toolkits and resources, which you can find on our "Advocacy Tools" page, available at the top right.
OUR FUTURE OBJECTIVES
We continue to work with the co-operative sector, stakeholder organizations and the Conseil de la coopération de l'Ontario to have a strong and meaningful government awareness strategy.
On Co-op continues to advocate for co-operative interests to the Ontario government. For example, we are keeping a co-op sector profile through targeted meetings and communications, including budget submissions and position papers. We are committed to a strong and sustainable non-partisan all-party Co-op Caucus (see link at right for more information), which will raise awareness and work towards solutions by directly involving MPPs at Queen's Park in bi-monthly caucus meetings. We strongly believe that our future events at Queen’s Park should be more strategic, and our message (or “ask”) as a co-op movement in Ontario should be clear and strong.
In the future, we will be adding a “Lobby Day” as part of the Queen’s Park Reception. This would create the opportunity for co-op leaders and representatives to attend pre-arranged meetings with their Ministers or MPPs prior to the Reception, to discuss issues of importance.
CHANGES TO THE CO-OP CORPORATIONS ACT
Ontario's Co-operative Corporations Act was proclaimed March 31, 1974. One of On Co-op’s roles in Ontario is to work with the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) and the Ministry of Finance (MoF) to propose changes to the 41-year-old Co-operative Corporations Act . We also have ongoing dialogue with co-operatives about the barriers and challenges to co-ops in Co-operative and other legislation.
Our goal is to participate in an ongoing dialogue with our regulator so that the regulatory climate for co-operatives is effective, efficient and competitive, and enables co-operatives to best meet the needs of their member-owners and communities. Our mandate is to advocate on behalf of all the province’s co-operatives, and to provide tools to individual co-ops or sectors so they can advocate on behalf of their own constituencies.
The Regulatory Affairs Committee, made up of diverse co-op sector representatives, professionals and stakeholders, meets regularly with FSCO and MoF, and has presented them with a number of proposed changes to modernize the Act.
For a list of the proposals that On Co-op has made to FSCO and MoF on changes to the Co-operative Corporations Act, download the document from the list at right.
ALL PARTY CO-OP CAUCUS MEETINGS
The joint On Co-op and CCO Government Relations Committee has held four Co-op Caucus meetings at Queen's Park!
At the very first All Party Caucus on October 22, 2015, only a handful of MPPs or staff members attended. At the latest meeting on March 22, 2016, 22 MPPs were in attendance, exemplifying the increased efforts of the GR committee and consultant hired by On Co-op and CCO, as well as the awareness and interest they have generated in the past six months!
The three co-chairs of the All Party Co-op Caucus are:
- MPP Ernie Hardeman
- MPP Percy Hatfield
- MPP Marie-France Lalonde
Download the caucus meeting summaries from the link at right to learn more.