Transportation group moves forward with a co-op

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MANITOULIN – The United Manitoulin Island Transportation (UMIT) group is looking at a co-operative model as a vehicle to offer on accessible rural transportation service for workers, students and others in need on the Island. 

Meanwhile, the council for the municipality of Central Manitoulin has given its approval to sign a transfer agreement for the community grant program in the amount of $500,000 from the Province of Ontario to act as the financial conduit (flow through) for the program.

Guy Dumas, who has spearheaded this project for the past few years and is an employee of March of Dimes Canada, told the Recorder, “I have received word from (the March of Dimes Canada) corporate office that they have decided not to be the lead service provider for the project, but will still continue to support the project.”

“I’m still on the file,” stated Mr. Dumas who said, “our participation as the working group remains. He explained, “I’ve examined a number of options going forward and we will be assembling a different business model that had been discussed a couple of years ago.” Two years ago the idea of a co-operative model had been suggested by Maureen Strickland for everyone who wants to participate. “We have found out that there are many resources and help for co-operatives out there though this social model,” said Mr. Dumas. “Therefore we will be pursuing a UMIT co-operative.”

“I have talked to the National Co-operative Association that helps get co-operatives such as the one we are working on get off the ground,” said Mr. Dumas. “But I need to also make sure we are not going to lose anyone as we move forward looking at this model. So there will be an announcement in the next week or so indicating we are going in a different model direction—looking at a co-operative.”

“Under a co-operative we would sell membership. It’s a multi-stakeholder model producer co-operative,” said Mr. Dumas. “It will be consumer-driven and producer-included (for example those that operate taxi services). (There is) going to be management as part of all of this.”

“A multi-stakeholder cooperative would mean members/stakeholders would have one vote each and memberships would be in place, set at maybe $50 a year,” continued Mr. Dumas. “We are getting direction on all of this from the NCA (National Co-operative Association). I explained we had tried to get a transit service off the ground and we have a lot of allies. I told their representatives we have funding of $500,000 and their representative I talked to said this will make it a lot easier to form this co-op because usually co-operatives are started with nothing on hand. Her reaction to my information was encouraging.”

He pointed out, “management solutions will have to come from the Manitoulin Island community. 

Provincial funding which had been approved in 2018 to the UMIT group toward its implementation of a plan to offer accessible rural transportation service for workers, students, and others in need was recently confirmed. 

“We can’t let this idea die, or go away, and we are now going in the direction of forming a co-operative,” said Mr. Dumas. “We are definitely still moving forward.”