January 17th, 2008

New website being launched that focuses on patient needs
Nova Scotians looking for access to quality medical information, medical coaching, or existing prescription drug renewals may soon find help is just a click away on their computer. Nova Scotia’s co-operatives and credit unions, in partnership with several Nova Scotia doctors, are preparing to launch a new web-based medical support clinic – Connecting People for Health Co-operative Ltd. – the first of its kind in Canada to focus specifically on patient needs. The idea for the online clinic has developed over the past five years as wait times, emergency room closures and doctor shortages have increased. Access to the clinic is on a subscription basis through the use of high speed Internet. Through the clinic, subscribers will have access to medical officials online for questions and supports; online prescription renewals; pre-approved medical library; test results; medical supplies and more. In addition, shares in the initiative to individuals under the Community Economic Development Investment Fund (CEDIF) program can be purchased for $5,000 until mid-February.

Enterprises with a “Double Bottom Line”
What do a print shop, internet cafe and cleaning service have in common? The three unique businesses are the first recipients of United Way of Peel Region's new Social Purpose Enterprise Grants, totaling $100,000. Operated by non-profit organizations, social purpose enterprises generate revenue while addressing social needs. By employing and supporting at-risk populations, these businesses create economic opportunities and community connections. They provide jobs, job-related training and experience, as well as a way to improve individual housing situations and foster life skills. United Way's Social Purpose Enterprise Grants focus on reducing poverty by tackling some of its underlying causes. "Social purpose enterprises have a double bottom line," explains United Way CEO Shelley White. "They not only make money, they can make over lives as well."

Fairville, Canada: Labour-conscious foodies move onto new turf as fair trade campaigns are adopted by entire cities
For a while there, it looked like fair trade might join the casualty list of alternative social movements reduced to a market niche. But the grassroots are back in full swing, thanks to “fair trade towns,” an idea that’s been sweeping through Europe since 2001 and just crossed the ocean to Canada in 2007, landing first in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and La Pêche, Quebec. This new wave exemplifies the latest wrinkle in democracy. As governments drift into reduced relevance – too big to do the small things for individuals and community groups, too small to do the big things with giant multinationals – fair trader influence is growing. From almost a standing start in the 1990s, the sector is now a billion-dollar business marketing some 2,000 products from 50 countries to 22 others, raising the living standards of some 5 million workers.

Fair Trade coffee brewed at new shop
DAVID RANEY, owner and operator of the recently opened Joppa Dessert and Coffee Lounge, says a part of the reason for opening the new business on Broadway in Orangeville was to create a place to tell stories and to make a difference in the community. Coffee is many things to many people. But to a local entrepreneur, it's a Third World challenge. Part of the reason Dave Raney started Joppa Desert and Coffee Lounge, Orangeville's newest eatery, was to help tackle the darker side of coffee. More than just a liquid high, coffee is also the cause of some of the worst poverty in the world, in places like South and Central America. Mr. Raney, compelled by a lifelong urge to help those in need, decided that if he were to open up a coffee shop, the coffee and teas he would sell would be of Fair Trade, which ensures the Third World farmers get a fair price for their products.

It’s All Good at the General Store
The success of any retail business is based on its ability to respond to the surrounding community. Can you give the customer what they want? A business that sees itself as part of the community can take that relationship one step further, as it not only supplies the regional customer base with goods, but gives those customers a central place to meet, shop and be a part of things. In the olden days, that would have been a local general store. In 2008, it’s also the general store, or at least that’s the case in Parkdale. Opened in 2006, the Good Catch General Store on Parkdale’s main drag has always been about welcoming the neighbourhood. Owners Jola Sobolak and Daniel Hickox filled their shop with a little bit of everything - from handmade toys, to works by local artisans and crafters, to jewelry, candles, environmentally-friendly cleaning products and organic food stuffs. That fun mishmash still exists, as noted in the array of guitars on the wall behind the cash and the rack of vintage garments in the back, but in the past six months, The Good Catch has become known more and more as the place to go for food and now everything from soup to cheese and bread take up over half the shop.