Co-operatives

Are you thinking of forming a co-operative? Co-operatives are owned by an association of people or businesses that pool their resources to meet a common need. A co-operative offers democratic control – each member gets one vote. Because the business is considered a legal entity, the business structure limits the liability of a cooperative's members. It also allows the organization to acquire assets, go into debt, enter into contracts, and more.

Canadian co-operatives operate in a variety of economic sectors such as agriculture, food, social services (e.g. health care, housing), retail and wholesale, fishing, energy, recreational services, and financial (including insurance).

The following information is meant to help you navigate the world of co-operatives. For general information on business start-up, consult our sections on starting and planning.

Table of Contents

    About co-operatives

    Learn more about the various types of co-operatives to determine if this business model is a good fit for you.

    • Co-operatives overview
      Only Applies to : Manitoba
      Learn more about co-operatives in Manitoba: model, types, management, and structure.
    • An Information Guide on Co-operatives
      Is the co-operative business model for you? Learn about the business structure, how to form a co-op, the legislation across Canada and more.

    Incorporate as a co-operative

    You can choose to incorporate as a co-operative with either your provincial/territorial government or with the federal government. Your choice will depend on whether you intend to operate in more than one province or territory. Make sure you understand the rules you need to follow to remain in good standing, and know how to make changes to your organization and what your obligations to members are.

    Provincial/territorial co-operatives

    Find information about the incorporation process from your provincial or territorial registrar.

    Alberta

    • Corporate Registry
      Only Applies to : Alberta
      To conduct business in Alberta, register your cooperative, corporation, extra-provincial company, non-profit company, society, trade name and/or partnership.

    British Columbia

    Manitoba

    • Cooperatives
      Only Applies to : Manitoba
      Learn how to start and operate a cooperative in Manitoba.

    New Brunswick

    Newfoundland and Labrador

    • Incorporating a Co-operative
      Only Applies to : Newfoundland and Labrador
      Learn how to start and operate a co-operative in Newfoundland and Labrador.

    Northwest Territories

    Nova Scotia

    • Co-operatives
      Only Applies to : Nova Scotia
      Learn how to start and operate a co-operative in Nova Scotia.

    Nunavut

    • Legal registries (Nunavut)
      Only Applies to : Nunavut
      In order to do business in Nunavut, you must register with the territory, even if you live in or have a business established in another part of Canada.

    Ontario

    Prince Edward Island

    Quebec

    • Setting up a cooperative
      Only Applies to : Quebec
      Do you want to create or start a cooperative? If so, learn more about the laws, programs, policies and tools related to starting a cooperative.(in French only)

    Saskatchewan

    Yukon

    Federal co-operatives

    To incorporate a co-operative at the federal level, you must intend to carry on your business and/or have a fixed place of business in more than one province or territory.

    When you incorporate as a federal co-operative, you are also required to register your business in the province or territory where you will be operating.

    If you operate in more than one province or territory, you may need to register with those regions as an extra-provincial or extra-territorial corporation.

    Regulations and taxation

    There are certain rules that all businesses must follow. This includes charging GST/HST on taxable goods and services if you do not qualify as a small supplier. Other obligations could apply if you undertake certain business activities such as hiring, marketing, selling and importing. The Canada Revenue Agency considers a co-operative that is a legally incorporated business to be a corporation for income tax and GST/HST purposes.

    • T2 Corporation — Income Tax Guide
      If you operate a corporation, you need to file a T2 corporation tax return every year. Learn how to complete this return.
    • Register for a GST/HST account
      Get all the information you need to understand how to charge, collect and submit GST/HST.
    • Permits and licences
      Find the federal, provincial/territorial and municipal permits and licences that you may need to start or manage your business.
    • Provincial and territorial tax information
      Get information on provincial and territorial taxes and find out how to collect sales tax from your local and out-of-province customers.
    • Regulated business activities
      Learn about regulations that apply to key business activities such as exporting, importing, marketing, and managing employees.
    • Federal tax information
      Get information about federal taxes and how they affect your business. Learn about GST, HST, payroll deductions, income tax and more.

    Support organizations for co-operatives

    Seeking the advice of peers, professional business counsellors and associations can help you develop and strengthen your business.

    Programs and services available

    Discover some of the programs and services that are available to your co-operative.

    Canada

    Alberta

    • Agriculture Financial Services Corporation Lending
      Only Applies to : Alberta
      Access loans and services to start or grow farm, agribusiness or other small business.
    • Western Diversification Program
      Only Applies to : Alberta British Columbia Manitoba Saskatchewan
      If your not-for-profit organization is looking to strengthen the economy of Western Canada, you can apply for funding for various initiatives.
    • Western Innovation (WINN) Initiative
      Only Applies to : Alberta British Columbia Manitoba Saskatchewan
      Your Western business could get financial assistance to bring innovative products, processes and services to market.

    British Columbia

    Manitoba

    • MASC Lending Programs and Loan Guarantees
      Only Applies to : Manitoba
      Tap into a number of programs tailored to meet your needs, and access attractive interest rates on loans and guarantees.
    • Western Diversification Program
      Only Applies to : Alberta British Columbia Manitoba Saskatchewan
      If your not-for-profit organization is looking to strengthen the economy of Western Canada, you can apply for funding for various initiatives.
    • Western Innovation (WINN) Initiative
      Only Applies to : Alberta British Columbia Manitoba Saskatchewan
      Your Western business could get financial assistance to bring innovative products, processes and services to market.
    • Women's Enterprise Centre (Manitoba)
      Only Applies to : Manitoba
      Are you a woman entrepreneur looking to start, expand or purchase a business? Get help to improve your business skills and acquire financing.

    New Brunswick

    • Atlantic Innovation Fund
      Only Applies to : New Brunswick Newfoundland and Labrador Nova Scotia Prince Edward Island
      If your business is in the Atlantic provinces, you could get funding to develop new technology.
    • Work Ability
      Only Applies to : New Brunswick
      You could be eligible for wage subsidies to provide participants with job exposure to make them "job ready".
    • Child Care — Quality Improvement Funding Support
      Only Applies to : New Brunswick
      You can apply for funding to increase the wages of eligible permanent employees at your child day care home or centre.
    • Export Development
      Only Applies to : New Brunswick
      If you are looking to grow your business by exporting, you can access specialized services to help you get started.
    • Employer Wage Incentive — Workforce Expansion
      Only Applies to : New Brunswick
      You could receive temporary wage reimbursements when you create permanent jobs or annually recurring seasonal jobs in your business.
    • Aquaculture Loans and Loan Guarantees
      Only Applies to : New Brunswick
      Find out how you could get a loan or loan guarantee for your aquaculture business.
    • Energy Smart Commercial Buildings Retrofit Program
      Only Applies to : New Brunswick
      You could get up to $3,000 to evaluate the energy efficiency of your business and up to $75,000 to pay for the energy upgrades.
    • Business Development Program
      Only Applies to : New Brunswick Newfoundland and Labrador Nova Scotia Prince Edward Island
      Access funds to start, expand or improve your business in Atlantic Canada.
    • Community Business Development Corporations — Social Enterprise Loan
      Only Applies to : New Brunswick Newfoundland and Labrador Nova Scotia Prince Edward Island
      You could get a loan of up to $150,000 to start-up, renovate or grow your social enterprise in rural Atlantic Canada.
    • Wage Incentive — One-job Pledge
      Only Applies to : New Brunswick
      You could receive wage reimbursements for 52 weeks to hire a recent post-secondary graduate.

    Newfoundland and Labrador

    • Atlantic Innovation Fund
      Only Applies to : New Brunswick Newfoundland and Labrador Nova Scotia Prince Edward Island
      If your business is in the Atlantic provinces, you could get funding to develop new technology.
    • Business Retention and Expansion Program
      Only Applies to : Newfoundland and Labrador
      Increase your competitiveness by participating in a business retention and expansion project.
    • Supplier Development Program
      Only Applies to : Newfoundland and Labrador
      Learn how to identify and access public sector supply opportunities.
    • Agriculture Access Road and Electrical Program
      Only Applies to : Newfoundland and Labrador
      Increase your farm efficiency through the construction of off-farm access roads and the installation of electrical services.
    • Livestock insurance
      Only Applies to : Newfoundland and Labrador
      Get insurance to compensate against livestock losses or injury caused by dogs or other predators.
    • Linkages
      Only Applies to : Newfoundland and Labrador
      You could receive a wage subsidy to hire a youth for a 26-week placement.
    • Seafood Innovation and Transition Program
      Only Applies to : Newfoundland and Labrador
      If your fisheries-related business or organization is transitioning from shellfish to groundfish, you could be eligible for funding.
    • Market Readiness Subsidy Program
      Only Applies to : Newfoundland and Labrador
      You could receive a subsidy to offset costs of training and professional development for your tourism business or non-profit organization.
    • Direct Equity Tax Credit Program
      Only Applies to : Newfoundland and Labrador
      Invest in a new or expanding small business in Newfoundland and Labrador and receive a provincial income tax credit.
    • Getting the Message Out program
      Only Applies to : Newfoundland and Labrador
      Find out about economic development initiatives and entrepreneurial opportunities in Newfoundland and Labrador.
    • Crafts of Character Branding Program
      Only Applies to : Newfoundland and Labrador
      Promote your high-quality, distinctive Newfoundland and Labrador craft, gift and apparel products through this provincial branding program.
    • Film and video tax credit
      Only Applies to : Newfoundland and Labrador
      Apply for a refundable provincial corporate income tax credit for your Newfoundland and Labrador film project.
    • Economic Diversification and Growth Enterprises
      Only Applies to : Newfoundland and Labrador
      If you establish or expand your business in Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly in rural areas, you may receive tax rebates.
    • Business Development Program
      Only Applies to : New Brunswick Newfoundland and Labrador Nova Scotia Prince Edward Island
      Access funds to start, expand or improve your business in Atlantic Canada.
    • Small Business Tax Credit
      Only Applies to : Newfoundland and Labrador
      You can benefit from a reduced rate of taxation for your small business.
    • Junior Exploration Assistance Program
      Only Applies to : Newfoundland and Labrador
      You could receive a grant to conduct advanced mineral exploration and prospecting activities.
    • Community Business Development Corporations — Social Enterprise Loan
      Only Applies to : New Brunswick Newfoundland and Labrador Nova Scotia Prince Edward Island
      You could get a loan of up to $150,000 to start-up, renovate or grow your social enterprise in rural Atlantic Canada.
    • Business Investment Fund
      Only Applies to : Newfoundland and Labrador
      Need financing to grow or expand your business? If it is part of the Province's strategic sector, you could be eligible for funding.
    • Student Summer Employment Programs
      Only Applies to : Newfoundland and Labrador
      You could get a wage subsidy to hire a high school or post-secondary student for the summer.
    • Regional Development Fund
      Only Applies to : Newfoundland and Labrador
      Need to enhance skills essential for regional economic development? If you run a non-profit organization in Newfoundland and Labrador, you could be eligible for funding.
    • JobsNL Wage Subsidy
      Only Applies to : Newfoundland and Labrador
      Need to hire an employee for short or long-term duration to help with your business? You could get a wage subsidy to assist with the costs.
    • Apprenticeship Wage Subsidy
      Only Applies to : Newfoundland and Labrador
      If you hire an apprentice, you could get a wage subsidy up to $14 per hour to help with salary costs.
    • Grants for registered family child care homes
      Only Applies to : Newfoundland and Labrador
      Thinking of starting a registered family child care home in Newfoundland and Labrador? You may be eligible for start-up grants and yearly supplements.
    • R&D Vouchers
      Only Applies to : Newfoundland and Labrador
      Access funding for technical expertise and facilities that will support your research and development activities within your innovative business.
    • R&D Proof of Concept
      Only Applies to : Newfoundland and Labrador
      Apply for a grant to reduce the technical and financial risk of your innovative, pre-commercial research and development project.

    Northwest Territories

    • Strategic Investments in Northern Economic Development
      Only Applies to : Northwest Territories Nunavut Yukon
      Find out how your northern business could get up to $99,999 for a project that creates jobs and helps develop the North.
    • Entrepreneurship and Business Development Fund
      Only Applies to : Northwest Territories Nunavut Yukon
      If you are Aboriginal and live in the territories, you could get financing to start or grow a business.
    • Metis-Dene Development Fund
      Only Applies to : Northwest Territories
      You could get a loan to help you develop your business in the Northwest Territories.
    • Self Employment Option
      Only Applies to : Northwest Territories
      Interested in starting your own business in the NWT? If you are unemployed, you could continue to receive benefits and get help to start your business.
    • Tourism Product Diversification and Marketing Program
      Only Applies to : Northwest Territories
      Access funding to develop your tourism business in the Northwest Territories.
    • Northwest Territories Arts Council Funding
      Only Applies to : Northwest Territories
      Are you an artist in the Northwest Territories? You could get a grant to help finance your artistic project.
    • Apprenticeship Training Assistance
      Only Applies to : Northwest Territories
      Hiring an apprentice? You may be able to obtain a subsidy to cover a portion of their wages.
    • Economic Development Officers
      Only Applies to : Northwest Territories
      Obtain business support services for entrepreneurs operating in the Northwest Territories.
    • Financial programs
      Only Applies to : Northwest Territories
      Are you looking to obtain financing for your business? This program offers term loans, equity, contributions and letters of credit.
    • Training on the Job
      Only Applies to : Northwest Territories
      If your business is in the Northwest Territories you could get a wage subsidy to train your employees and increase the skills of your workforce.

    Nova Scotia

    Nunavut

    Ontario

    Prince Edward Island

    • Atlantic Innovation Fund
      Only Applies to : New Brunswick Newfoundland and Labrador Nova Scotia Prince Edward Island
      If your business is in the Atlantic provinces, you could get funding to develop new technology.
    • Business Development Program
      Only Applies to : New Brunswick Newfoundland and Labrador Nova Scotia Prince Edward Island
      Access funds to start, expand or improve your business in Atlantic Canada.
    • Community Business Development Corporations — Social Enterprise Loan
      Only Applies to : New Brunswick Newfoundland and Labrador Nova Scotia Prince Edward Island
      You could get a loan of up to $150,000 to start-up, renovate or grow your social enterprise in rural Atlantic Canada.

    Quebec

    Saskatchewan

    Yukon

    You may also be eligible for other government programs. Find a list of programs from the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, as well as private sector financing, including debt and equity.

    Programs for non-profit co-operatives

    If your co-operative operates as a non-profit organization, you could qualify for these additional programs if you meet the eligibility requirements.

    If your co-operative provides services to official language minority communities, you could qualify for funding. In all regions except Southern Ontario, your co-operative must be a non-profit to qualify. The program is delivered by several government departments.

    If your co-operative is a non-profit learning organization, you could qualify to get free computers for your school.

    Your non-profit co-operative could qualify for funding to help hire a youth for an internship in the field of information and communications.

    As a non-profit co-operative in Southern Ontario with a mandate of economic development, you could obtain financing to carry out business-led research and development activities.

    As a non-profit co-operative in Southern Ontario with a mandate of economic development, you could obtain financing for projects that can help diversify your region’s economy.

    Your non-profit or non-commercial organisation could qualify for funding for projects that deliver long-term employment and economic capacity building in rural communities of Atlantic Canada.

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