Co-operatives part of the solution to challenges identified in the MacKinnon Report

Printable version of News Release and Backgrounder

(September 17, 2019 – Stony Plain) After reviewing the MacKinnon Report, the Alberta Community and Cooperatives Association (ACCA) believes it has a solution to address rising costs for healthcare and municipal services in Alberta: co-operatives.

“We applaud the work of the McKinnon report,” said Randy Taylor, ACCA Board Chair. “In challenging times, we have to come up with innovative solutions to address budget constraints and the impact on services in Alberta. While co-operatives are not a new concept, they are a powerful and innovative solution to address a multitude of community needs. Co-operatives can help provide responsive, cost-effect services to current and future needs of government, including healthcare, and it is a model already being used across the country.”

 Unlike private health care systems, co-operative health services are owned and managed by their patients on a non-profit basis and have proven they can work fully within the Canada Health Act. In Quebec alone, health care co-operatives provide 2.6 million hours of home care each year and provide primary medical care of 178,000 people in the province.  Co-operatives in other provinces provide care directly or indirectly through community health clinics, ambulance services, and home care.

 "There are already over 500 health and social service co-operatives in Canada and they are proving to be a successful model that we can use right here in Alberta,”  

said Paul Cabaj, Interim Executive Director, ACCA. “Co-operatives are particularly adept at building healthcare teams that allow nurse practitioners, pharmacists, and other health practitioners to work to their full scope of practice, making them economical and effective.”

 As co-operatives are community-based organizations, ACCA sees them as a natural partner for municipalities as well.

  “A growing number of municipalities in other jurisdictions are already partnering with non-profits, the private sector, and co-operative businesses to fill gaps in services, including group purchasing to reduce transit costs, local energy generation, childcare services, and affordable housing.” said Cabaj. “The co-operative model is a powerful tool for municipal collaboration that can operate independently from provincial and federal regulations and funding, and can help build the sustainability and resiliency of Alberta communities.”

 The co-operative model is already being used to address municipal issues in Alberta. One example is the Opportunity Development co-operative, which is a local investment vehicle that enables Albertans to invest in key economic infrastructure, local businesses, and services. Another example is the Battle River Railway, a co-operative owned by municipalities and farmers, and is one of the best run short-line railways in Canada, and serves as a key piece of economic infrastructure for rural communities.

“Co-operative businesses are woven into the fabric of Alberta’s economy and society,” said Taylor. “ACCA is ready to work with the provincial and municipal governments to explore the potential of utilizing the co-operative model to resolve social, economic, and healthcare issues in support of our collective vision of building better and stronger Alberta communities.”

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For more information, contact:

Paul Cabaj
Interim Executive Director
Office: 780-963-3766
Cell:  780-716-4475
Email: execdir@acca.coop

Jackie Sargent, SCMP
Communications Specialist
Cell: 780-719-6141
Email: communications@acca.coop

BACKGROUNDER

 Co-operatives are part of the solution to challenges identified in the MacKinnon Report

The Alberta Community and Co-operative Association applauds the work of the MacKinnon report and its call for innovative approaches to address budget constraints and the impact on services to Albertans. Alberta co-operatives stand ready to work with the Government of Alberta to find solutions to the complex issues facing all Albertans. 

Co-operatives can be able partners in providing responsive, cost-effective services to current and future needs of government. The MacKinnon report recommends exploring innovative approaches where ACCA believes co-operatives can play a key role: health care and municipal services.

Health Services: With an aging population and ever evolving and costly new technologies, demands on the public purse for health services will only grow.  Left on its current trajectory of escalating costs, health care spending would consume the entirety of government revenues. The accelerating costs of health care is a challenge for governments across the world.  It is no accident that health care is now one of the fastest areas of growth in the co-operative movement. 

Co-operative health services, owned and managed by their patients on a non-profit basis, have proven that they can work fully within the Canada Health Act.  They have proven to be effective in providing services to underserved communities and populations. Co-operatives are particularly adept at building health care teams that allow nurse practitioners, pharmacists and other health practitioners to work to their full scope of practice. Many employ doctors on a salaried as opposed to fee for service basis, controlling costs while improving personalized care.

In Quebec, the home care services are now dominated by multi-stakeholder home care co-operatives that provide clients and better working conditions for staff. Outside of Quebec, Canadian co-operatives provide outpatient care directly or indirectly through community health clinics, ambulance services and home care. Health and senior care co-operatives offer quality solutions that are often more personalized and transparent than what is found in the public system or among private providers.

Select examples of Health and Senior Care Cooperatives

Saskatoon Community Clinic (Saskatchewan) saskatooncommunityclinic.ca

The Saskatoon Community Clinic is a provider of primary health care services. Our ultimate goal is to build a healthy population by providing support focused on healthy lifestyles, disease prevention, patient education, diagnosis and treatment. Although owned and operated by its members, its services are open to all.

The Medical Clinic Les Grès   www.cliniquemedicalelesgres.ca Saint-Étienne-des-Grès were the first health services cooperative in Quebec to open in 1995. Currently, 12 doctors and a team of nurse clinicians, a specialized nurse, a social worker and a physiotherapist serve many surrounding communities. The clinic also houses a pharmacy, a dentist, an optometrist, psychologists and a physiotherapist.

Community First Health Co-op (British Columbia) healthco-op.ca Founded in   2003 in response to the loss of services at the local level, Community First Health Co-op  (CFHC) is a cooperative of consumers and care providers to improve the health and well-being of communities, families and individuals by providing health care and dental care in the Nelson area.

The EESAD Cooperation Network  (Entreprise d’économie sociale en aide à domicile) aidechezsoi.com  is present in the seventeen administrative regions of the province. Via its network of co-operative and non-profit home care organizations, they provide more than seven million hours of service to 100,000 people, including nearly one million hours of business support services. EESAD employs more than 9,400 people, including 8,700 home service providers with the necessary skills and expertise, to provide quality home support and services to citizens in need.

Canadian Federation of Health Co-operatives (British Columbia) healthcoopscanada.coop

The Canadian Federation of Health Cooperatives brings together co-operatives across Canada that focus on wellness, social services and health. Offering networking and training opportunities on specialized and larger topics, this national federation shares the work of its member cooperatives and represents the entire sector.

Municipal services and infrastructure: The co-operative model is a powerful tool for municipal collaboration that is independent of provincial and federal regulations and funding.  A growing number of municipalities have already formed partnerships with non-profits, the private sector and co-operative businesses to fill gaps in services ranging from co-operative purchasing agreements to reduce costs to transit, local energy generation, childcare, and affordable housing. 

Many municipal leaders in Alberta are already active in supporting Development Opportunity co-operatives, which are local investment vehicles that enable Albertans to invest in key economic infrastructure, local businesses and services. 

One example is the Sangudo Opportunity Development Co-op, located in the Hamlet of Sangudo, northwest of Edmonton. The first of its kind in Alberta, community members invested in a co-operative to enhance the community’s social and economic well-being by supporting the development of new and existing businesses. Local Investing YYC is playing a similar role in an urban environment investing in Calgary based businesses.

Battle River Railway NGO Inc. is a new generation cooperative owned by municipalities and farmers. It is one of the best-run short line railways in Canada that connects with the CN rail line for movement of goods such as grain and provides tourism opportunities through the passenger car excursion service.

Jackie Sargent