FURTHER THOUGHTS ON THE 2013 CHFC AGM

The CHF AGM is the second national co-op AGM I’ve attended this year. The first was the Credit Union Central AGM was a short meeting held over lunch time in a boardroom. The CHF AGM has hundreds of people in a ballroom. The core of the meetings were the same—-annual reports, approving audits, presenting awards and director elections.

I was really impressed by Dr. Kellie Leitch, the parliamentary secretary for
Diane Findley, and the first sitting conservative MP to address a CHFC AGM. I was particularly struck by her advocacy for a housing first approach to meet the needs of the marginalised around us. Most of her talk focused on what the current government has done for co-operative and affordable housing, but on occasion idealism did leak out—a return to the spirit of such former Tory housing advocates as Alan Redway and David Crombie.

There were only two motions circulated in advance of the meetings—both on the theme of responding to the end of operating agreements. I find this a ongoing disappointment for me—-our members have a rare opportunity to share ideas and concerns with housing co-op activists from across the country and rarely use it fully.

Unlike many, I do enjoy the financial reports. I truly believe that the values and passion of an organisation is stated in clear language in financial statements. The CHFC financial statements show that the sector spent a lot of time and money helping co-ops in difficulty, in advocating for new co-operative funding, in providing educational opportunities and in work with other organisations that share a desire for new affordable housing. On a side note, there was a slight increase in the value of the endowment funds at the end of 2012—it was stated that the person most delighted with this news was me.

There is a real chasm between myself and most of the participants at this AGM, like at many such gatherings I have attended over the years. I am not a fan of silly exercises or similar breaks in the flow of the meeting. I do find off colour jokes off putting. And, while I am inspired by the many presenters, it would be great to have enough time set aside to ensure that any late motions or other efforts by individuals to participate in the life of the movement from the floor of the meeting are given sufficient time.

During the course of day there were reports on the work of various committees, including the CHFC Diversity , the Aging in Place Committee and Young/Emerging Leaders committees. Important work is being done that is movement and community building among CHFC’s members which is distinct from that which is focused on the institutional needs and political work of CHFC.

In recent years CHFC has developed a tradition of making an appeal to support the work of a local charity working with the homeless. This year the appeal was to support the work of Emma House. This small charity provides housing and support for homeless pregnant women. I forget, at times, the extent that our society doesn’t care for those in need. While we were reaching into our pockets, I hope we were also reaching into our hearts to commit ourselves to building a world where homeless pregnant women is a historical concept.

While the faces throughout the day were friendly, I did leave the AGM feeling not as at home as I usually do at a co-op gathering. Some of that is due to the changes in Ontario Council and the CHFC Board. I will especially miss working with Judy Collins and Anjala Kulasegaram on Ontario Council and Julie Campbell on the national board. However, part of this is due to the fact that CHFC does seem to have gotten to the cusp of having to truly decide if it is a movement controlled by its members or a central body providing services and direction to stakeholders.

This evening there is a dinner/dance. Last year, for the first time in my many years of coming to the CHF AGM, I attended the dinner—or rather stayed until my tendency to panic in social situations took over. During this week I did test myself in attending, for a least a little while, various socials (albeit socials that had a political undertone). However, I did not suddenly evolve into a social butterfly and will therefore be skipping the dinner/dance again this year.

Tomorrow morning I have meetings of both Ontario Council and the CHFC Board, with the major agenda items being election of officers and appointment of committee members. I then head homewards and back to my normal world of meetings interspersed with work.

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