With just six weeks to go until Canada’s New Democratic Party selects its new leader, candidate Charlie Angus visited London on Thursday to launch a platform plank that he says strengthens community-based businesses.
The platform section, entitled Owning Our Economy, provides workers in local communities with “legal and financial incentives to start communally owned businesses,” a statement from the Charlie Angus campaign said.
The Timmins-James Bay, Ont., member of parliament made the announcement at the Root Cellar, a London restaurant under the Forest City Worker Co-operative. The initiative would specifically target co-ops, credit unions and other community enterprises.
“For over a century, co-ops have afforded Canadians the ability to meet their own needs and to build prosperity for their communities,” Angus said. “The federal government does not currently offer co-ops much support, and that needs to change.”
One of the legal mechanisms enshrined in the policy would give workers of a closing business a legal first right of refusal, meaning they would have the ability to purchase and restructure it as a co-op, if desired.
Angus said an NDP government under his leadership would also implement “social purchasing” for government procurement, which he says would give smaller businesses a leg up on growth and competition if they can offer “quality, environmental and social considerations.”
His plan would also harmonize provincial and federal legislation surrounding communal operations, and launch a development initiative that would assist fledgling or expanding co-ops.
The move was welcomed by Jeff Pastorius, a worker — and by extension co-owner — of On The Move Organics, the Root Cellar, and the London Brewing Cooperative.
“Co-ops are great for local economies,” he said. “They have higher success rates than traditional businesses, offer more opportunities for people of all abilities, and keep jobs in our local areas.”
Pastorius indicated that access to capital — a major difference between business start-ups and co-op projects — is a key barrier, and one that Angus’ plan would tackle.
“Charlie’s plan will ensure that co-ops like ours, and new ones, will have access to the resources and capital they need to start and expand in our communities,” he said.
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