ParIT Worker Co-op

ParIT Worker Co-op is an Information Technology co-op in Winnipeg that was founded on April 4, 2006 after a series of business planning sessions with Supporting Employment and Economic Development (SEED) Winnipeg's worker ownership program. The founding membership
consisted of seven individuals with diverse backgrounds and skillsets. 
ParIT's foundational ethics include not only providing value to the
cooperative movement as a whole, but also a commitment to Participatory
Economics and Free Software.

ParIT engages with the cooperative community in a number of ways including helping start the Winnipeg Parecon Council, participating on the boards of the Canadian Worker Co-op Federation, Data Commons, the A-Zone and representing worker co-ops in the Manitoba Community Co-op Strategy.  They are currently helping explore creating a second tier worker cooperative hub to help with efforts such as hiring and worker co-op exchanges.

ParIt has been one of the beneficiaries of the Tax Credit Fund in two unique ways.  First, they were able to help other co-ops who received grants and then hired ParIt to help them design their systems.  Jamie Campbell, member, advises, "The tax credit fund has been a key component enabling ParIT to further assist the co-op community. This fund, in conjuction with the Assiniboine Credit Union (ACU)Community Enterprise Development grant, enables ParIT to take a best practices approach to the implementation and deployment of new
infrastructure. The tax credit fund provides the first step, enabling
co-ops to work with us crafting the design of the system they'd like
to see. This is followed by the second step, in which co-ops are able
to afford the implementation phase, with grant funding from ACU. Worker co-ops tend to get very wrapped up in their day to day affairs, and so the most
compelling aspect to this approach is that as co-ops become more
efficient and capable, through the empowerment that improved technology
can provide, they are also provided the potential to better help their
fellow co-ops."

ParIT has also been a direct recipient of funding from the tax credit
fund which enabled it to work with a marketing consultant to craft
short, medium, and long term steps.  The co-op feels that this has placed ParIT on a road of better brand understanding, and better understanding of the network effects of their various initiatives. 

Jamie also notes, "Co-ops seem to have a kind of joyous infectious quality to them.  At the time that ParIT worked with the marketing consultant he had informal collaborations with people possessing various related skillsets.  After working with various co-ops including ParIT, he and his associates banded together to form a producer co-op!"

Springfield Seniors Non-Profit Housing Co-operative

July 3rd was an exciting day for a team of volunteers who are now that much closer to seeing their dream become a reality as construction officially began in Dugald on a new $14.5 million, 47 unit housing co-op development to provide quality, affordable housing.  The Honourable Peter Bjornson, Minister of Housing and Community Development and Jim McCarthy, Reeve of the RM of Springfield were in attendance at the community sod-turning celebration along with many members of the community.

The concept for the Springfield Seniors Non-Profit Housing Co-operative (SSNHC) began several years ago when a group of dedicated volunteers met to discuss one of the problems plaguing its' seniors - a lack of affordable housing alternatives in the area that would allow them to remain in the community they call home during their retirement years.  When the Dugald United Church committed $150,000 toward developing seniors housing in the area, it was an ideal time to start talking about how to solve the problem.

The co-op looked at a few different housing models and after contacting MCA to learn more about the cooperative model, decided that it was the best fit for their vision and in June of 2012 they formally incorporated.  In November a Memorandum of Understanding was signed with the RM of Springfield under which the RM contributed approximately 4 acres of land to house the proposed co-op.

Members of the co-op will be required to purchase shares currently valued at $89,610 which are fully refundable when they move out.  The co-op will feature seven one-bedroom and forty two-bedroom suites and amenities include an exercise room, guest suite, heated underground parking and a multi-purpose room with kitchen, fireplace and outdoor patio. Occupancy is planned for late fall 2015.

With 33 suites already taken, the Cooperative Loans and Loan Guarantee Board has approved in principle a $900,000 loan guarantee as a bridge to support the project while the last units are being sold. Provincial assistance also includes affordable rent supplements for 7 suites and a Rental Housing Construction Tax Credit of approximately $560,000.  The contribution from the United Church will be funding the share purchase on a suite to help a lower income senior live in the co-op.  They are also being used to help fund the multi-purpose room which will serve as a multi-faith chapel on Sunday mornings.

Dugald Estates is the first phase of the co-op's vision. Eventually, the co-op hopes to have several connected buildings with various levels of housing and services...places that will be good to live in and grow old in, places that are more like home and less like institutions, places where seniors can move through the continuum of care while remaining in the same community and retaining their social network.

The co-op is one of many who have benefitted from contributions from the cooperative community through the Tax Credit Fund which provides both small grants and technical assistance to new and expanding co-ops.  "MCA provided invaluable advice and support in the development and success of our co-op,” said SSHC Chair Lesley Thomson.  “They were with us every step of the way, answering questions, providing guidance, and connecting us with other co-ops and professional expertise.  We were also successful in accessing the tax credit fund which provided much needed funding for our initial marketing.  If you are thinking about starting a co-op,” added Thomson, “you would be well advised to start your journey by getting help from MCA's co-op developer."

Congratulations to this hard working group.  We look forward to following your progress and are so pleased that we've been able to help you along the way!

Westman Media Cooperative


Westman Media Cooperative, which operates under the name Westman Communications Group (Westman) provides cable TV, Internet and phone service in the Westman region of Manitoba which includes the city of Brandon.

The genesis of Westman began on December 13, 1976 when a group of 15 individual had an exploratory meeting in Brandon to discuss creating a company to provide cable TV in the Westman Region.  Over the next few months subsequent meetings were held with increasing numbers of attendees leading to the Westman Media Cooperative being formed. The cooperative structure was chosen as it would generate more support from the public and enhance the probability of approval by the Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for a license to provide cable television signals in the Westman region.  Memberships were sold at $5 and momentum grew with more people becoming members to support the application (550 pages) being presented to the CRTC on March 31, 1977 with the presentation being made in person in English, French and Ukrainian.

The efforts paid off on August 8, 1977 when the CRTC granted Westman Media Co-operative a broadcast license. The first annual meeting was held on September 30, 1977 and included the announcement that 9 television channels would be broadcast (today Westman provides over 300 different TV signals) and that each of the 14 communities in the region would have a Community Media Committee (CMC) which provide specific local content. September 19, 1978 was the grand opening with broadcasting commencing in Brandon and Carberry to a total of 4,000 homes (in contrast today over 20,000 homes in the region receive services from Westman).

Over the subsequent years Westman has evolved to being a diverse media company by adding radio stations in 1998, launching high speed Internet in 1999, obtaining a fibre connection to Winnipeg in 1999 to add more TV signals, and offering wireline phone service in 2008.  Today Westman operates in 36 communities in the Westman region with over 20,000 members and annual revenues exceeding $25 Million.  Westman is very active in supporting local sports and events via 18 CMC’s. Most recently Westman was selected one of Manitoba’s top 25 Employers for 2014, which reflects our strong commitment to our region and staff.

Westman is proud of being a cooperative and is a strong supporter of the Cooperative Development Tax Credit fund which helps co-ops  grow and new ones to be developed.


Village Canadien Housing Coop

This month’s co-op profile is Village Canadien Housing Co-operative (VCCL), one of Manitoba’s first housing co-ops.

The co-op boasts 226 units located on two sites in St. Vital.  As most co-ops do, the housing co-op was built after the community identified a need – in this case for affordable housing. 

In the  mid 60’s a group of families from St. Boniface who were deeply concerned with the quality and cost of housing, never mind the acute shortage of housing at that time, attempted to deal with this difficult and complex issue.  After an initial demographic study of membership, it was then decided to apply for incorporation as a cooperative; the co-op model would serve as the corporate tool that would better meet the group’s objectives.

The “Mother Society” better known as the Cooperative Housing Association of Manitoba (CHAM), who had assisted Willow Park Housing Co-Op (a nonprofit co-op in the Tyndall Park area of Winnipeg) with their project development and was now providing management services for Willow Park Housing Co-Op, agreed to assist VCCL with these initial steps and VCCL was granted its Charter on January 8, 1968.

After 6 years of meetings with Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC), the Provincial Government, the City of Winnipeg and the Municipal Board, VCCL finally had zoned land, architectural plans and a project manager.  CMHC granted a loan commitment in 1975 and construction then commenced.  In July of 1976 the first families moved into the first site located on River Road.

VCCL wasn’t done providing housing yet though and after successfully negotiating for the construction of a 73 townhouse & apartment unit complex located on Meadowood Drive in St. Vital, the official opening ceremonies were held on November 19, 1989, with the Federal, Provincial & CMHC officials present for the ribbon cutting ceremonies.  Their second site was now open.

VCCL is once again looking to the future and has applied for approval to approve for an expansion of the existing 150 townhouse unit project on River Road & St. Mary’s Road.  They will be having an information session on Thursday, May 29 to discuss the proposed development of a new 55+ cooperative housing project which would provide housing by way of 58 affordable senior’s apartments.  Click here for more information.

The co-op truly recognizes the value of the sixth principle of cooperatives “cooperation among cooperatives”.  It has been active in the housing cooperative community for many years and Linda Ferguson, President of the Board, also sits on the Cooperative Housing Federation of Canada (CHF Canada) Board of Directors.  The co-op is now in the process of merging with Maurepas Housing Co-op, an 8 unit nonprofit housing co-op in Selkirk, Manitoba.  Because Village already has a strong management and board structure, it will be able to offer Maurepas much needed administration and maintenance at a lower cost than it would have been able to secure previously because of its’ small size. 

One more way that the co-op supports the sixth principle is by its’ support of the Tax Credit Fund.  Manager David Gawthrop says:  “Our board has made a point of contributing to the Tax Credit Fund since its’ inception a few years ago; to us it’s a win/win scenario.  As a housing co-op we contribute $1,000.00 to the fund each year and in return get a $750 refundable tax credit back from the provincial Government.  For an annual net investment of $250, we are providing much needed capital to assist co-ops of all shapes and sizes to grow and flourish”.

Thank you Village Canadien for all your years of providing affordable housing to the community and for your commitment to provide help to other co-ops in need.


Bodegoes Restaurant Workers Pool

Located in downtown Winnipeg, Bodegoes has operated two full service restaurants.  The first, in Winnipeg’s Exchange District was incorporated in 2002 and the second located on the Main Floor of Cityplace was incorporated in 2009.  A seasonal Noodle Stall has operated out of Shaw Park since 2003.  The Restaurant name Bodegoes was inspired through the name bodega, a common global reference to a local community store.

In the Fall of 2012 the restaurant's founder, Bryson Maternick, noticed a natural path of values and beliefs that aligned closely with that of cooperatives and a partnership with Bodegoes Worker Pool was formed after reviewing plans to grow the company and realizing that in order to succeed in the restaurant service industry the organization needed an entrepreneurial management structure where individual time and energy were offset by growth and financial reward.

Founded on March 12, 2013, Bodegoes Restaurant Workers Pool Ltd proudly directs Bodegoes Restaurants under the guidance of established democratic cooperative principals ensuring all partners have a direct impact in the profits and progress of the restaurants success within our community.

The cooperative / corporate partnership agreement sets forth the development of a full and eventual succession plan in which Bodegoes Restaurant Workers Pool Ltd will have the option to exercise their collective right to fully own and direct the restaurants under the local brand Bodegoes.


Pollock's Hardware Co-op

Since 1922, Pollock’s Hardware store at 1407 Main Street has been open for business supplying the neighbourhood with access to a variety of hardware and household items.  At that time not a co-op in 2007 the owners, wanting to retire, decided to put the store on the market.  Unfortunately they could not find a buyer and so, in 2007, Pollock’s Hardware closed its doors.

The story doesn’t end here though.  Local community members who were dismayed that such a north-end icon would be shut down, looked at how they could keep their store in the neighbourhood.  After several community consultations, they were inspired to reopen it as a co-op.  An interim board was formed and a business plan was developed.

Memberships were sold for twenty-five dollars each and helped to raise the working capital needed. The co-op used a combination of equity capital from contributing members, loan capital from Assiniboine Credit Union and a loan from the Jubilee Fund. Partnership with the Provincial Economic Development Tax Credit program allowed Pollock’s co-op to sell investment shares to their membership and offer a 30% tax credit to all those who bought.

On June 21st, 2008 Pollock’s Hardware Co-op held its’ grand opening and in the following months Pollock’s continued to find success. In the first year, sales were up 22% above the projections outlined in the business plan and member equity investments were 38% above the established business plan targets.  Membership has continued to grow and Pollock’s now has over 2,500 members.

Pollock’s Hardware Co-op continues to grow and in 2011 entered into a Social Enterprise Centre with BUILD and Manitoba Green Retrofit. Together they purchased a warehouse at 765 Main Street and use the location to bring social enterprises and non-profits together.  Pollock’s operates a contractor / warehouse store in this location and most recently Pollock’s opened its’ third retail location at 550 Osborne Street at Ashland.

Pollock’s Hardware Co-op is truly an exemplary story of people coming together and using the co-op model to save an existing business.  

Willow Park East Housing Co-op

Looking back at its' humble beginnings, the very first members of Willow Park East Housing Co-op may have never dreamt there would come a day when they would be able to celebrate not only paying off their mortgage but also obtaining Cooperative Housing Federation of Canada's 2020 certification, a certification that rewards co-ops that have a high standard of operation and share the values of the co‑op housing movement. 

The housing co-op began as the vision of a group of people out of Willow Park, the housing co-op to the west of them and Willow Centre, a non-profit home for seniors. The vision soon became reality and in November of 1971, the first members moved into Phase one of the housing co-op which consisted of 68 two bedroom units.  Not long after, Phase two was ready and members began occupying the 156 three bedroom units. 

Pat Deans, former manager and current member of Willow Park East, fondly remembers that back then the Tyndall Park neighbourhood in which the housing co-op is located was in the middle of nowhere.  As is the case with many co-ops, this need for services led to a store being built within the complex and a restaurant for the convenience of its' members.  The store was very profitable and because of an agreement with CMHC, its' revenues were used to help keep housing charges affordable.  Although the store and restaurant are no longer there, Willow Park East is still a vibrant community with a large hall available for community and member use. 

Today, the housing co-op has a healthy waiting list, has paid off its' mortgage and has a plan in place to help continue financially subsidizing members in light of the end of their operating agreement with Manitoba Housing. 

Urban Eatin' Gardeners Workers Co-op

Pictured here are Urban Eatin' members weeding a garden in the early stages of its' first year at Health Point Clinic (627 Dudley Avenue)

In light of the recent announcement that Urban Eatin’ Gardeners Worker Co-op would be receiving MCA’s Cooperative Achievement Award, we thought what better co-op to profile this month?

Urban Eatin’ Gardeners Worker Co-op had its' start a few years ago from an initial group meeting of those interested in food security and establishing more food gardens in Winnipeg. Of that meeting, 4 members founded the worker co-op in 2009 (Paolo Riva, Naomi Audia, Mosheh Ravensong, Troy Stozek), and its' focus was establishing residential gardens and aiding with community gardens.

Since that time, the co-op has had some transition in membership but all agree that the worker co-op model offered a way to give all members an equal say in the direction and operations of the business, as well as equal motivation for its success. Urban Eatin' is not only a worker co-op but also a social enterprise with a mission that includes education and community projects.  They have been able to access resources and grants from organizations like SEED Winnipeg, Assiniboine Credit Union, MCA and the Canadian Worker Co-op Federation. 

The co-op is committed to using organic and holistic techniques to design, build and maintain edible gardens for Winnipeg’s private residences and public facilities. Gardens can be planted in-ground or into custom-sized raised-beds, and can include vegetables, culinary and medicinal herbs, fruiting shrubs/trees/vines and native perennials. Other projects include building pergolas, cob ovens, salvaged-wood compost bins, and installing rain barrels and trellises. Education is an important part of their mission, and they provide a wide array of hands-on workshops for schools, community groups, seniors homes and more. Urban Eatin’ envisions a more just, sustainable food system, where people in urban spaces can work towards localizing food production, lessening our ecological footprint, working cooperatively and building community while working towards food sovereignty in Winnipeg.

Western Manitoba Seniors Non-Profit Housing Co-op


July 10 marked a momentous occasion in Brandon - the grand opening of WMSNHC where Honorary Chair Deacon John MacKenzie spoke to a crowd of close to 200 people.

The housing co-op, which will house low to moderate income seniors, began as the dream of a dedicated group of people from the Brandon Seniors for Seniors Co-op who identified that, as is the case throughout Manitoba, the need for affordable housing is critical.

The event noted the deep appreciation to all that worked to support the cooperative, and that 620 McDiarmid Place would not have been a reality if it hadn’t been for people positively working together to create a legacy of affordable senior housing.  The celebration reflected on the importance of cooperative housing and the continued work required into the future for additional housing.

It is the first housing co-op to be built in Manitoba using what’s known as an unequal share equity model - members have different share requirements based on what size of suite they’re going into.

The City of Brandon will be providing assistance toward some share pruchases to ensure eligible seniors can access affordable housing.  Six units will also be subsidized on a rent-geared-to-income (RGI) basis.

The project was funded by all three levels of government and offers 34 units of housing - 14 one bedroom and 20 two bedroom units.  All 34 units have been spoken for and it is the hope of the co-op that this will be the first of many housing co-ops to help with the need for affordable housing in Brandon.


Neechi Commons


Neechi Commons is a worker co-op boasting 50,000 square feet in Winnipeg's North End.  It features a grocery, a restaurant, a farmers' market, a bakery, specialty boutiques, an Aboriginal arts centre and other amenities.  The co-op was deliberately built in a part of the city that faces tough social and economic challenges in an effort to foster neighbourhood revitalization and to provide economic opportunities for Aboriginal youth and other area residents. 

Neechi Commons like its' predecessor, Neechi Foods Co-op, will promote healthy foods and lifestyles. Neechi Foods Co-op is already known for promoting healthy eating and healthy living. The existing grocery operation on Dufferin Ave. was the first grocery store in Winnipeg that didn't sell cigarettes (although providing tobacco for ceremonial purposes) and has been subsidizing fresh fruit for neighbourhood children since it began operations over 22 years ago. The cooperative has been honoured nationally, at a meeting of the Canadian Diabetes Association, and locally, by the Reh-Fit Centre, for its diabetes prevention work.

The co-op embraces community economic development (CED) principles and, in fact, their guiding CED principles are what the Manitoba Provincial Government uses in its' CED framework.  About 60 new jobs will be created in the neighbourhood supermarket, restaurant, bakery, produce courtyard, Aboriginal arts store, and specialty boutiques, with hiring priority given to residents of adjoining neighbourhoods and a large percentage of jobs going to youth providing a direct alternative to street gangs and dependency on income assistance.

The governments of Canada and Manitoba each contributed $1.3 million under the Infrastructure Stimulus Fund toward the costs of the project, and the Manitoba government provided an additional $1 million. 

For more information please visit Neechi's website.


Peg City Car Co-op

If you know Winnipeg, you probably know that you can get almost anywhere by bus, bike or on foot. However, even those looking to avoid vehicle ownership acknowledge that access to a car is sometimes helpful.

With this in mind, approximately five years ago a group of sustainable transportation enthusiasts came together to figure out how to fill that gap. Voila! The idea of carsharing took hold, a concept that although new to Winnipeg is certainly not new to other cities.

Peg City Car Co-op, which encourages people to bike, walk, bus, and sometimes drive, is celebrating its second anniversary. Launched in June 2011, Peg City provides Winnipeg residents with affordable, convenient access to shared vehicles on an hourly basis without the hassles and expense of individual car ownership.

With 28 members in the beginning, the co-op has grown to 150 members and counting, and just recently doubled its fleet to 8 cars in a number of easily accessible, densely populated areas. This expansion was made possible thanks to an investment drive that raised $66,000 from Manitobans. Not only were investors able to support a local co-op financially but they also received a 30% tax credit for their investment thanks to the Province of Manitoba’s Community Enterprise Development (CED) Tax Credit Program.

Peg City chose to form as a co-op based on feedback received at community meetings in the planning phase. Member-owned, the co-op shares the cost and benefit of the vehicle network among its users. Peg City also partners with other car co-ops, like Modo in Vancouver, so their members can continue to carshare when visiting other cities.

For more information, please visit Peg City's website.


Medea Gallery Artists' Cooperative

The Medea Gallery Artists’ Co-operative Gallery has been doing business in Winnipeg’s Osborne Village since 1976. At Medea, member artists manage and staff the gallery and work with a number of consignment artists who supply hand made ceramics, glasswork, jewellery and other fine craft items. 

Many art galleries, both commercial and artist-run centres, have come and gone from the local arts scene during that time.The Medea has struggled through some rough spots but has survived thanks mainly to the support and dedication of its' artist members.  Currently the gallery is enjoying a period of renewal.

A recent artists’ open house which was made possible by a grant through Cooperative Development Initiative available through the Manitoba Cooperative Association (MCA) attracted interest from artists all over Winnipeg and beyond. One inquiry was from as far away as Gillam, Manitoba. The event was a great success and resulted in three new artist members and several more who are seriously considering membership. Many of the artists who visited the gallery that day commented on being pleasantly surprised at the positive changes that were evident.

A new awning sign was installed late last fall and this has really enhanced the gallery’s exterior appeal and drive-by visibility. An improved hanging system, using cables instead of chains makes the regular infusion of new work much easier to install. New track lighting inside, on the main floor, shows the work displayed there more attractively and saves energy. This lighting is in place thanks to another grant funded by the Province of Manitoba, also available through the Manitoba Cooperative  Association. Smaller improvements like repainting display fixtures and repositioning them to reduce clutter have made a big difference.  It's noteworthy that the new awning clearly identifies Medea Gallery as an artists' cooperative.

New members, new work and a new image should result in new customers for the Medea Gallery so that it can continue to provide a sales venue for Manitoba artists and an opportunity for them to work together in an atmosphere of mutual encouragement.  With the warm weather hopefully coming soon, take a walk through the Village and check out the "new and improved" Medea Gallery at 132 Osborne.   


Kalyna Ukrainian Cooperative

Kalyna Ukrainian Cooperative had its' roots in the Ukraine.  Established in 1930 by Ukrainian war veterans who immigrated to Canada during the 1920s, the new cooperative intended to provide consumers with goods and services at cost, afford local craftsmen an opportunity to sell their wares, and tried to train a cadre of Ukrainian-Canadian cooperators who would be able to establish a Ukrainian cooperative movement all across Canada.

Kalyna was first and foremost a cooperative bookstore.  The founders of Kalyna always maintained that the cooperative’s primary function was to promote and popularize cooperative principles and practices among Ukrainian Canadians. They hoped to provide members with an opportunity to learn fundamental management skills and to create employment opportunities for those committed to the cooperative ideal.

Eighty two years later, Kalyna is one of Manitoba’s oldest cooperatives and is still proud to call the north end home from its’ location at 952 Main Street.


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