- Small B.C. credit unions threatened by consolidation
Ross Gentleman, who is a regular guest on Each for All, says while it’s worth remembering the proud history of B.C.’s credit union movement, it’s important to give thought to the current challenges posed by merger pressures. Today in B.C., credit unions serve more than 1.9 million members (approximately 42 per cent of the provincial population), hold over $72 billion in assets, and employ over 9,000 British Columbians. While this sounds like a good news story, there is a quiet crisis brewing as the number of small credit unions declines, says Ross, who is a former CEO for the CCEC Credit Union. In 1991 there were 101 independent credit unions in B.C.—and today there are 42. Consolidation has resulted in 10 large credit unions with 86 per cent of the assets, and these are largely in urban centres. Thirty-two small credit unions, the more traditional ones, are being squeezed. Seven credit unions in the Kootenays and Columbia River Valley have announced discussions on a potential merger. If this occurs, it will not only be the largest merger of individual credit unions in B.C., it will also represent a significant step away from locally-controlled financial services, says Ross.
- Co-operatives and mutualsestablish $25 million Canadian Co-operative Investment Fund
Canadian co-operatives and mutuals have committed $25 million to establish the Canadian Co-operative Investment Fund. The fund will provide financing for new and expanding Canadian co-operatives. “The fund demonstrates the willingness of our sector to invest in the future of Canadian Co-operatives,” says Andy Morrison, chair of the fund. Morrison said there is a critical need for investment vehicles that understand the needs specific to co-operatives. The fund has been designed by co-operatives to invest in co-operatives. Among the organizations that have agreed in principle to invest in the fund are Vancity, the Canadian Worker Co-operative Federation and the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada.
- Leased land a headache for South Surrey co-op
It should be a time of celebration for residents of the Totem Housing Co-op, in Surrey. Only last month, the close-knit community held a party to mark the burning of the mortgage for their townhouse and bungalow homes, tucked away in a surprisingly quiet, tree-ringed site just off busy King George Boulevard. But the mortgage they just paid off was only for the buildings – not the land itself, co-op president Judy Patka explained. And she said there won’t be much else to celebrate unless the 35-year-old co-op, which provides 58 units of affordable housing in South Surrey, can get a secured mortgage to buy the land on which the co-op sits. Patka fears the property, owned by a union pension fund, could be sold out from under residents for redevelopment in five years. Patka said it had recently offered the co-op first refusal to purchase the property, but that option expired because the co-op was unable to get financing on a mortgage in time. “We’re desperate,” she said. “The clock is ticking.” Patka said she has written letters to provincial housing minister Selina Robinson, Premier John Horgan, and Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner to explain the co-op’s plight.