The Democratic Economy

[Last Updated: January 2022]

How can we build a democratic community-run economy? How can we build community wealth and create jobs for each other? Can we have businesses without bosses, run instead by the workers and citizens? 

In Milton Parc, we have a lot of potential to make extraordinary change, with 1500 people living downtown in cooperative and non-profit housing that has a combined value of over $200 million. How can we go beyond housing and democratize the larger economy? How can we use community-owned commercial properties (through SDC Milton Parc) to promote collective businesses? 

Now we have the opportunity to buy Bar des Pins. Beyond this, there is huge potential for possible development projects on the sites of the former Hôtel-Dieu hospital, the Royal Victoria Hospital, and the parking lots on St Urbain. Through community power and good planning we can do a lot of community economic development!

Our community owns commercial and office space!

La Société du Développement Communautaire (SDC) de Milton Parc

A group member of the Communauté Milton Parc (CMP) community land trust, the SDC is the community landlord of 11 commercial and office spaces: Presse Café/Fresh Mint, Basha’s, Marché Lobo, La fée raille, le Chat Perlé, le Café St Barth, Chai Tea Lounge, 3516 Parc Avenue (the former Urban Ecology Centre), an office at 3518 Parc Avenue, Amelia’s pizza restaurant, and the dépanneur Marché Milton Parc. The SDC is run by a board of volunteers that represent different housing coops and non-profits in the CMP. 

What this means is that we, the community, are the landlord of these spaces. We can make decisions about prioritizing community needs regarding what businesses we rent the spaces out to. And we can support local and even democratic businesses that otherwise couldn’t survive in our heavily gentrified neighbourhood by charging a much cheaper rent. We need to use community-owned spaces to develop democratic businesses that serve the community and not capitalism.

It also means the money that comes from these rents can be democratically invested back into the community, and not into a capitalist landlord’s pockets and sent into tax havens. The SDC regularly funds our work of popular education, mobilization, and mutual aid, as well as the Fête des Voisins de Milton Parc, Solidarity Milton Parc, and other community projects.

La Lucarne: In 2020, they developed a community magazine, La Lucarne. Check out the digital version here!

Preliminary design by Shawna Hill

Bar des Pins

Our community is buying a bar! Let’s make it a democratic community project.

The owners of Bar des Pins want to sell their bar, and because it is part of the land trust of the Communauté Milton Parc, the community gets the option to buy first, and much cheaper than market rents. So the SDC is in a process of buying the Bar to turn it into a space that serves the community. 

It could be a community bistro, a café, a coworking space, a collective kitchen, a performance space, a community centre. The possibilities are endless! We are advocating that, however it is used, that a new project be run democratically and cooperatively, involving the workers, the consumers, and the broader community.

See here for the results of a preliminary community consultation about potential uses for the bar:

Survey: Community Café/Bistro in Milton-Parc

A group of Milton-Parc citizens is interested in creating a cooperatively run, family-friendly, community-centered café in the neighborhood. This could be located in the former Bar des Pins space or in another SDC-owned space in the neighbourhood. We’d love to know how you would interact with such a business!

The essential elements of the enterprise:
• A varied menu highlighting affordable, nutritious, and delicious meals & beverages
• An emphasis on meals which are local, seasonal, and made in-house
• A designated play area for kids
• A multi-purpose space to host workshops and activities
• A Solidarity Cooperative business model in which customers (user-members), employees (worker-members), and community organizations (support-members) all have representation and collaborate for mutual benefit!

This space will also be the cornerstone of a democratic and resilient food system in Milton-Parc which will include collective cooking and being a drop-off point for a bulk buying group and community-supported agriculture baskets, among other activities.

In order to ensure the organization’s operations are aligned with the community’s needs, we have developed this questionnaire. Please tell us your opinion! Thank you!

The community now owns Bar des Pins!

After a year and half of negotiations, the SDC Milton Parc has now bought the Bar des Pins! As the landlord, they have published a call for projects with a deadline of August 15th. 

For more info on the SDC, it’s prior community consultation about the Bar des Pins, and our vision for a democratic economy in the neighbourhood, see our webpage on the Democratic Economy

Our community café-bistro project is expanding its team!

In anticipation of community ownership of Bar des Pins, for the past 10 months, we’ve been working hard behind the scenes. We’re developing a family friendly community café-bistro — so our neighbours can enjoy healthy affordable food, great coffee, and have a drink, and have cultural activities, workshops, and discussions. It would be organised democratically as a solidarity cooperative so that the users and workers share the power.

We are looking for experienced people to join our collective project. We need people with managerial experience in bars, cafés, and/or restaurants to help develop the project. Once the project is up and running, it will be possible to become paid staff. We are looking for people with following key coordination skills and experience(s):

  • Front of house:
    managing, scheduling, and training workers; ordering coffee, pastries, and/or alcohol; customer service; setting up and managing cloud based POS systems.
  • Food/kitchen:
    a chef with a strong work ethic; ordering food, creating and managing a menu; food system chain management and connections to suppliers.
  • Finance/Admin:
    fundraising, accounting, financial projections and costing analysis; payroll, financial reports, and other related tasks. 
  • Communications:
    marketing, outreach, social media, membership, press releases, website management.

The ideal candidates must believe in the social and solidarity economy and be willing and able to work in a cooperative structure. If you have any interest in joining the team or would like more information, please contact with your CV or explaining your skills/experience.

Don’t have experience in the industry but you know someone who does? Please share! We need a strong team for this project to be a success for the community. At the moment, members of SEIZE (Socialist Economy Incubation Zone) are helping move the project forward!