Pineland Co-op Holding Member Info Meeting January 9th, 2020 -Amalgamation

(Last Updated On: January 7, 2020)

Pineland Co-op has announced a proposed amalgamation with Lake Country Co-op in Prince Albert. Members are invited to learn and give input at information sessions, though directors & delegates will make the final vote.

On five occasions in December, Pineland Co-op had set up for members to ask questions, once each at the Choiceland Corner, Nipawin Food Store and the Nipawin Home Centre. A notice with detailed information was mailed out to Co-op members dated November 29th, 2019, though some members have stated they had not received theirs by the time the first information sessions occurred.

One final member information meeting is set for Thursday, January 9th, 2020 at the Nipawin Evergreen Centre at 7:30 pm.

In addition to the notices mailed out, Pineland Co-op has a page of Frequently Asked Questions posted on their website, which provides the same 13 questions and their answers as was provided in the mailed notice.

Pineland Co-op has laid out in detail in those FAQ, what benefits they feel amalgamation will offer members.

Keep what we have. Make it stronger. Same values. Better experience. Our strong and rooted Co-op principles will always remain the foundation of our Co-ops, and our commitment to communities will on be strengthened as a result of this partnership. Remaining Locally Invested with a strong Community-Minded approach will only serve to better support Lifetime Membership Benefits for all current and future Members. 1 Co-op Number | 18 Communities | 56 Different Locations

PINELAND CO-OP Web site BETTER TOGETHER DECEMBER 6, 2019

Learn more on the Pineland Co-op Website FREQUENTLY ASKED PARTNERSHIP QUESTIONS

Reactions mixed, lack of a member vote questioned

Through comments on social media and private discussions with Pineland Co-op members, the concern has been raised about Pineland’s decision to not put the amalgamation to a member vote. The short notice regarding the opportunities to ask questions at information sessions in the three store locations, added to that, has left some members feeling blindsided. Some members feel it is a big decision to make in a time span of less than 6 weeks, particularly with it falling during the busy Christmas season, and have shared resentment that the co-op was not more open with the amalgamation plans in the past, thereby allowing members more time to fully understand the pros and cons of it.

The question had been raised back in October 14th, 2017 when some Pineland members stated they had heard rumours of an amalgamation in planning from Lake Country employees and members. On their Facebook page, Pineland Co-op offered this response to a member asking if an amalgamation was occuring, “The Board of Directors from both Associations entered into a shared General Manager agreement last April. This agreement is about Co-ops working cooperatively and working together to enhance both Associations. Thank you for your comments.”(Oct 14, 2017) The member comment and Pineland’s response have since been deleted.

While amalgamations among co-ops has been common in the past couple of years, not putting the vote to the members is unusual. When Hepburn Co-op and Saskatoon Co-op decided to amalgamate, the decision was put to a membership vote to both co-ops. According to the Clark’s Crossing Gazette Hepburn Co-op Board of Directors Chair Carl Ens said it was a “huge decision” on the part of the board and membership, and one that was not taken lightly. “This Co-op store has been here in our community for a long time,” said Ens. “And I believe, as a result of this vote, the store will continue to be here and serve our community for many years to come. We have no intention of closing it. But it’s up to the members to support the store. Ultimately the future of the store is a decision of the membership.”

Lake Country is not new to mergers with smaller co-ops. According to The Spiritwood Herald in an article about their 2018 amalgamation with the Spiritwood and District Co-op, “Lake Country Co-op was formerly the Prince Albert Coop, and over the years has come to include the Co-ops in such communities as Paddockwood, Wakaw, Domremy, Smeaton, LaRonge, Shellbrook, Big River, Kinistino Canwood, Marcelin and Birch Hills.”

Spiritwood and District Co-op also gave their members a vote before making the decision to amalgamate, though that vote was done on the same night as their information meeting. As with Pineland, Spiritwood’s co-op also had previous partnerships with Lake Country for administration services.

Pioneer Co-op and Shaunavon Co-op both went to a member vote in October 2017, before deciding on their merger.

“For a manager or director of a co-op, forgetting that their power flows inward from the members and not outward toward them can lead to similar disaster. Mistaking the nature of legitimacy can put not only their job in danger but also the sustainability of the co-operative itself.”

Paul Thompson, Co-op Education Officer, Canadian Centre for the Study of Co-operatives, University of Saskatchewan – Co-operative Governance and Game of Thrones

Apprehension over loss of local governance

Loss of autonomy is also a concern raised by some members. In Pineland Co-op’s 2018 Member’s Report, it states their active membership at 8,051 members while Lake Country boasts 39,509 members. Once amalgamation is complete, former Pineland Co-op members will make up less than 17% of the membership of the new co-op partnership.

Representation for the area will also be reduced. Currently Pineland Co-op has 7 directors and 9 Delegates (as shown on their web site) and after the amalgamation they will have 2 directors and 6 delegates (according Pineland Co-Op’s statement below) . Note: Their governance structure will be clarified with a statement from a representative of Pineland Co-op as soon as it is received by Nipawin News

The Board of Directors (of the newly amalgamated co-op) will increase from six to eight members pending delegate approval. The two additional members will come from the current elected body from Pineland Co-op; one will serve a two-year term and the other will serve a three-year term. Following their initial terms, the regular director electoral process would be followed. Any director is eligible for re-election at the end of each term; there is no limit to the number of terms.” Pineland Co-op stated in their Frequently Asked Questions “Also, Pineland would receive representation of six delegates from the existing delegate body; three from the Nipawin area and three from the Choiceland area. Upon expiry of their terms, delegates would then be elected by members in each community.

Note:

There is some concern among members that the co-ops are getting too large, but the issue is typically the degree to which members are still in control and not the loss of competition. The supply chain, which is co-ordinated by Federated Co-operatives Limited, is becoming increasingly integrated, with locals sharing IT systems with FCL that allow the exchange of marketing and sales information. FCL is investing a great deal in the Co-op brand, imposing strict guidelines on the look and feel of retail stores and gas bars.”

Murray Fulton The State of Co-ops in Western Canada June 7, 2017

That loss of local control raises concerns such as loss of product lines caused by urban Lake Country’s decisions and expansions of services into areas already served by other Nipawin area businesses.

Former Pineland Co-Op VP Ron Breadner when asked if he had any final thoughts, Breadner had one piece of advice for current and future Co-op delegates and directors “Do your best and look after the Co-op,” he said. “Remember that you’re working for the members. The members are the ones that own the Co-op.”

Former Pineland Co-op VP honoured at annual members’ meeting – SaskNow

Further Reading;


Editors note: This article has been updated to reflect the following changes;

  • The amalgamation was referred to as “planned”, a representative for Pineland Co-op has clarified the amalgamation is “proposed”.
  • The earlier version stated the “board members” would make the final vote but the Pineland Co-op representative requested that it be worded as “directors and delegates” in order to clarify the delegates vote as well
  • The previous article stated there were 3 meetings prior to publication date, the correct number of meetings was 5
  • The previous article stated there were 6 directors, the correct number of directors is 7.

Post Author: Joanne Francis

Joanne Francis is the Editor and Journalist for Nipawin News