I having been doing some serious thinking about why I am running for the Ontario Regional Director position. I may expand on some of my ideas over the time leading up to the CHFC AGM in June, but here’s a beginning.
Co-operatives mean a great deal to me. Even at their largest and most bureaucratic, there is an internal commitment to grassroots democracy and the sharing of resources to meet common needs that I see as an example of an alternative way of social and economic organisation. My experience in the co-op movement, from starting food buying clubs to living in a housing co-op to serving as president of a national social investing co-operative, has helped me confirm through experience that my idealistic expectation of the co-operative movement works out in real life.
When considering running for the CHF Canada board this year I made the conscious decision to run for the Ontario regional director and not for an at-large position. The Ontario regional director serves both on the CHF Ontario Council and the CHFC board. There are issues being discussed at the Ontario region that are distinct from those at the national level, work which I have been a part of and would like to see through to their conclusion. Specifically, these are the review of the composition of Ontario Council, social housing regulation and eviction law reform.
I am a strong advocate for the position that the leadership of our movement should come primarily from the resident members of member housing co-operatives. The voices of other stakeholders must be heard and respected, but the member/owners of our co-operative communities must continue to have the major voice. I have also been pondering the need to find some way of bringing the silent stakeholder to the table—the voice of those on our waiting lists. If we are to ever have a permanent affordable housing programme that includes the development of new co-operative housing we need to look at ways to ensure that those that want to be a part of our movement play an active role in the work to push for and develop new housing co-operatives.
It is an ongoing battle to have the fact that co-operatives are self-managed, autonomous organisations acknowledged by the province. Legislation and regulations often impinge on the rights of co-op members to run their own communities. Co-op housing members aren’t passive consumers of government services; we are the owners of our communities. It is an ongoing struggle to keep this vision alive in the shra/post-shra world.
Work on eviction law reform began last century. It seemed to be about to finally come to fruition just before the last provincial election. I feel that it will be a major, but winnable, effort to have the current Ontario government not only introduce the legislation but, if passed, have regulations in place that make eviction law reform truly worthwhile for our members.
I have been working on these issues as an at-large member of Ontario Council. I would like to continue to work on these issues as the Ontario Regional Director.
The national co-op housing movement has similar struggles in its efforts to keep the vision of perpetually affordable resident controlled housing alive. From finding a way to help hundreds of different co-op communities navigate the period from life with subsidies and operating agreements to the new world of true autonomy to the ongoing need to have a new affordable housing programme there are debates on the long term vision and viability of our national movement I feel I can make a positive contribution to. Whether this is pushing for CMHC to confirm co-ops can get CMHC mortgage insurance without premiums, or looking at the fact we have many small co-ops in Canada that may need to help to work together with neighbouring co-ops to improve their financial viability or working with allies to keep the right to affordable housing in the public eye, there is work happening at the CHF Canada board that I believe I can make a valuable contribution to.
What I bring to the board table is a long history of activism and leadership in the co-operative world, from my home co-operative of Don Area Co-operative Homes to the Canadian Alternative Investment Co-operative. I have delivered newsletters, worked on successful funding applications for new affordable housing, chaired difficult members’ meetings, met with politicians and broke bread with the homeless. I may not have much of a social life, but I do have a rich history of having worked with co-operative members from St. John’s to Victoria to Windsor to Yellowknife.
CO-OP AND COMMUNITY INVOLVMENT
I bring to the position over 30 years of co-operative and community involvement in housing, food security, labour and faith-based social justice initiatives. This experience includes the following:
President, Canadian Alternative Investment Co-operative President, St. Clare’s Multifaith Housing Society President, St. Clare’s – Monico Place Treasurer, Ontario Region, CHF Canada Endowment Committee Chair, Student Christian Movement of Canada Vice-President: Ganesh Community Development Co-operative Director, Bathurst Quay Community Land Trust Secretary/Treasurer, CoLandco and CoLandco South President, Tenant Non-profit Redevelopment Co-operative President, Don Area Co-operative Homes Shop Steward and Health and Safety Rep, Labourer’s Local 183
President, CoAction Staff Association Vice-President, Ontario Worker Co-operative Federation Treasurer, Co-operative Housing Federation of Toronto Director, Rooftops Canada Director, FoodShare Toronto Director, CHFT Charitable Fund Shop Steward, OPSEU Local 595 Toronto Delegate, I.W.W. Programme Volunteer, Quaker Committee on Jails and Justice Co-facilitator, Mennonite Conference Eastern Canada Peace Troupe Chaplain volunteer, Mimico and Toronto (Don) Jails Volunteer, Field to Table (Toronto)