Cooperative democracy, Canada style

Canada’s powerful cooperative banking and insurance federation Desjardins is currently in the thick of an election campaign. Its current President and CEO Monique Leroux is coming to the end of her (maximum) two terms of office, each of four years,  and a new President to lead the cooperative will be chosen on March 19 and will take over on April 9.

Desjardins is a federation of self-managing credit unions (caisses) and the Group’s top executive is democratically chosen by an electoral college of 256 delegates, primarily representing the federated credit unions. The college meets behind closed doors to take its decision, in a procedure slightly reminiscent of the way the Vatican chooses a new pope (no white smoke, though). In 2008 Monique Leroux was one of eight candidates and obtained the majority vote after six rounds.

This time there are just three candidates. Guy Cormier and Robert Ouellette are both currently Desjardins Senior Vice-Presidents. The third candidate, unusually, is external to the cooperative. He is Daniel Paillé, a former politician who led the separatist Bloc Québécois.

One of these three men will shortly be in charge of a very influential internationally-minded cooperative. We’ll find out who it is very shortly.

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