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.
On this page:
Learn more about the various types of co-operatives to determine if this business model is a good fit for you.
- 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.
- Co-operatives overview
Learn more about co-operatives in Manitoba: model, types, management and structure.
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.
Find information about the incorporation process from your provincial or territorial registrar.
- Corporate Registry
To conduct business in Alberta, register your cooperative, corporation, extra-provincial company, non-profit company, society, trade name and/or partnership.
- Incorporating a Cooperative Association in British Columbia
Learn how to start and operate a cooperative in British Columbia.
Learn how to start and operate a cooperative in Manitoba.
- Co-operative (Co-ops) Incorporation
Learn how to start and operate a co-operative in New Brunswick.
- Incorporating a Co-operative
Learn how to start and operate a co-operative in Newfoundland and Labrador.
- Corporate Registries — Co-operative Associations
Are you looking to establish and incorporate a co-operative within the Northwest Territories? Learn the rules in order to stay compliant with the law.
Learn how to start and operate a co-operative in Nova Scotia.
- Legal registries (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.
- How to Register a Co-operative
Learn how to start and operate a co-operative in Ontario.
- Corporate services — Business name registration
Register your business name in Prince Edward Island to prevent other organizations from using the same business name.
- Setting up a cooperative (in French only)
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.
- Forming a co-operative in Saskatchewan
Find out how to register a co-operative in Saskatchewan, including information on fees and required forms.
- Business registration in the Yukon
In order to register your business in the Yukon, you will need to contact Corporate Affairs.
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.
- Federal cooperatives
Find out how to incorporate and maintain a federal cooperative in Canada.
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.
- Register for a GST/HST account
Get all the information you need to understand how to charge, collect and submit GST/HST.
- 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.
- Federal tax information
Get information about federal taxes and how they affect your business. Learn about GST, HST, payroll deductions, income tax and more.
- 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.
- Permits and licences
Find the federal, provincial/territorial and municipal permits and licences that you may need to start or manage your business.
Support organizations for co-operatives
Seeking the advice of peers, professional business counsellors and associations can help you develop and strengthen your business.
- Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada (CMC)
Find out about a range of development activities, networks and education programs that can support co-op development in Canada.
Find resources and consultants to help you start and run a co-operative in Canada.
- Canadian Co-operative Research Network
Exchange ideas, share research and collaborate with practitioners involved in the development of co-operatives in Canada.
- Regional co-operative development organisations
Access support to start or expand a co-operative from organisations located across Canada.
Programs and services available
Discover some of the programs and services that are available to your co-operative.
- BDC business loans
You could get money to help you start or grow your business.
- MASC Lending Programs and Loan Guarantees
Tap into a number of programs tailored to meet your needs, and access attractive interest rates on loans and guarantees.
- R&D Vouchers
Access funding for technical expertise and facilities that will support your research and development activities within your innovative business.
Use this tool to find information on programs and services available to you if you conduct business in the agriculture or agri-business sector.
- Agriculture Access Road and Electrical Program
Increase your farm efficiency through the construction of off-farm access roads and the installation of electrical services.
- Agriculture Development Fund
Access funding to undertake agriculture or food research and development.
- Agriculture Financial Services Corporation Lending
Access loans and services to start or grow farm, agribusiness or other small business.
- Agriculture and Agrifoods Development Fund
Get funding to diversify and expand your primary or secondary processing operation.
- Apprenticeship Training Assistance
Hiring an apprentice? You may be able to obtain a subsidy to cover a portion of their wages.
- Apprenticeship Training Tax Credit
You may qualify for an annual tax credit of up to $5,000 per qualifying apprentice to a maximum of $15,000 over a 36-month period.
- Apprenticeship Wage Subsidy
If you hire an apprentice, you could get a wage subsidy up to $14 per hour to help with salary costs.
- Aquaculture Loan Program
Apply for a loan to establish, maintain or expand your aquaculture business.
- Aquaculture Loans and Loan Guarantees
Find out how you could get a loan or loan guarantee for your aquaculture business.
- Atlantic Innovation Fund
If your business is in the Atlantic provinces, you could get funding to develop new technology.
- Automotive Innovation Fund
If you have an incorporated automotive business, you could get funding to build greener, more fuel-efficient vehicles through innovation and R&D.
- Business Development Centres of Nunavut
If you are a Canadian living in Nunavut, you can apply for help to start or grow a business in your community.
- Business Development Program
Access funds to start, expand or improve your business in Atlantic Canada.
- Business Investment Fund
Need financing to grow or expand your business? If it is part of the Province’s strategic sector, you could be eligible for funding.
- Business Retention and Expansion Program
Increase your competitiveness by participating in a business retention and expansion project.
- Canada Small Business Financing Program
Access funds for your small business with the help of this loan guarantee program.
- Canada Summer Jobs
If you hire students for the summer, this subsidy could help you cover 50% of their wages.
- Canadian Agricultural Loans Act program
Find out how this loan guarantee could help you secure credit for your farming business.
- Canadian Intellectual Property Office
If you want to protect your invention or creative work, this organization will provide you with what you need to protect your intellectual property rights.
- Chantier de l'économie sociale Trust
Your social economy business, non-profit organization or cooperative could benefit from financing for real estate investments or to cover operating costs.
- Child Care — Quality Improvement Funding Support
You can apply for funding to increase the wages of eligible permanent employees at your child day care home or centre.
- Co-operative Education Tax Credit
You may be eligible for a refundable tax credit of up to $3,000 if you hire an Ontario co-op student.
- Community Business Development Corporations — Social Enterprise Loan
You could get a loan of up to $150,000 to start-up, renovate or grow your social enterprise in rural Atlantic Canada.
- Community Futures British Columbia — Financing programs for entrepreneurs
You could get a loan to start or grow a business if you live in a rural area of British Columbia.
- Community Futures Program
Get funding for starting or growing a business in a rural or disadvantaged area of the province of Quebec.
- Community Futures Program (Ontario)
You could receive funding to start or grow your business in rural Ontario.
- Community Futures Saskatchewan — Loan products for small businesses
You could get a loan to start or grow a business if you live in rural or northern Saskatchewan.
- Community Futures economic development centres — Western Canada
If you live in a rural region of Western Canada and want to start or grow your business, you can get business counseling and training in your area.
- Créativité Québec
Your business could get funding to buy new technology, or to develop or improve products and processes.
- Crafts of Character Branding Program
Promote your high-quality, distinctive Newfoundland and Labrador craft, gift and apparel products through this provincial branding program.
- Direct Equity Tax Credit Program
Invest in a new or expanding small business in Newfoundland and Labrador and receive a provincial income tax credit.
- Eastern Ontario Development Program
If you are located in a rural area of Eastern Ontario, you could get financing to start or grow your business.
- Economic Development Officers
Obtain business support services for entrepreneurs operating in the Northwest Territories.
- Economic Diversification and Growth Enterprises
If you establish or expand your business in Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly in rural areas, you may receive tax rebates.
- Employer Health Tax (Ontario)
Find out if you are required to pay the Employer Health Tax in Ontario.
- Employer Wage Incentive — Workforce Expansion
You could receive temporary wage reimbursements when you create permanent jobs or annually recurring seasonal jobs in your business.
- Energy Smart Commercial Buildings Retrofit Program
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.
- Enterprise Trade Fund (Small Business)
You could be eligible for funding to open, develop or expand markets or to stimulate Yukon business activities.
- Entrepreneurship and Business Development Fund
If you are Aboriginal and live in the territories, you could get financing to start or grow a business.
- Export Development
If you are looking to grow your business by exporting, you can access specialized services to help you get started.
- Farm Credit Canada — loans and lending options
You could access flexible financing options for your farming, agri-food or agribusiness operation.
- Film and video tax credit
Apply for a refundable provincial corporate income tax credit for your Newfoundland and Labrador film project.
- Financial programs
Are you looking to obtain financing for your business? This program offers term loans, equity, contributions and letters of credit.
- First Citizens Fund — Business Loan Program
If you are an Aboriginal resident of B.C. you can get support to start or grow your business.
- Fonds d'investissement en agroalimentaire Nicolet-Yamaska
You could receive financial assistance of up to $10,000 to start or expand your non-conventional-sized agri-food business.
- Getting the Message Out program
Find out about economic development initiatives and entrepreneurial opportunities in Newfoundland and Labrador.
- Grants for registered family child care homes
Thinking of starting a registered family child care home in Newfoundland and Labrador? You may be eligible for start-up grants and yearly supplements.
- Industrial Research Assistance Program
Your small or medium-sized business may qualify for financial assistance to develop, adopt, adapt and/or commercialize new or improved technologies.
- Investing in Business Growth and Productivity
Your established Ontario business or not-for-profit organization may be eligible for funding to grow and be more productive.
- JobsNL Wage Subsidy
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.
- Junior Exploration Assistance Program
You could receive a grant to conduct advanced mineral exploration and prospecting activities.
You could receive a wage subsidy to hire a youth for a 26-week placement.
- Livestock insurance
Get insurance to compensate against livestock losses or injury caused by dogs or other predators.
- Market Readiness Subsidy Program
You could receive a subsidy to offset costs of training and professional development for your tourism business or non-profit organization.
- Metis-Dene Development Fund
You could get a loan to help you develop your business in the Northwest Territories.
- Northern Ontario Development Program
Apply for financing to grow your business in Northern Ontario.
- Northwest Territories Arts Council Funding
Are you an artist in the Northwest Territories? You could get a grant to help finance your artistic project.
- Nova Scotia farm loans
Apply for a variety of lending products to help start or grow your agricultural business.
- Nunavut Business Credit Corporation
You could get up to $1 million to start or grow a business in Nunavut.
- Ontario Catapult Microloan Fund for Social Enterprises
You may be eligible for a loan of $5,000 to $25,000 for your innovative Ontario-based social enterprise.
- Ontario Innovation Tax Credit
You may be able to claim a 10 or 8% tax credit for scientific research and experimental development done by your Ontario-based corporation in Ontario.
- Ontario Tax Exemption for Commercialization
Your corporation may be eligible for a tax exemption if you sell new products developed by Canadian colleges or universities.
- Paid Work Experience Tax Credits
Are you ready to grow your workforce? Get help to recruit and retain qualified young workers.
- Partnerships Options for Companies
Get help with your Canadian R&D projects in natural sciences or engineering from colleges and universities in Canada.
- Passeport innovation
Your eligible SME, cooperative or non-profit organization could receive funding to support technological, organizational and social innovation projects.
- Quebec Economic Development Program (QEDP)
Find out about financial and other resources that can help you develop your Quebec business.
- R&D Proof of Concept
Apply for a grant to reduce the technical and financial risk of your innovative, pre-commercial research and development project.
- Regional Development Fund
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.
- Rural Economic Development Program
Access funding for your partnership projects that improve employee skills and economic diversity in rural or less urbanized areas of Ontario.
- Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program for employers
Are you an employer unable to fill your labour needs domestically?
- Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership
Is your business exporting or export-ready? Maximize your commercial success in global ventures by getting customized expert advice and assistance.
- Seafood Innovation and Transition Program
You could access funding for research and development projects in the harvesting and processing sectors.
- Self Employment Option
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.
- Selling to governments
Learn how your business can take advantage of contracting opportunities from the federal, provincial, territorial, municipal and foreign governments.
- Sivummut Grants to Small Businesses
If you live in the Baffin (Qikiqtaaluk) region of Nunavut, you could get up to $25,000 to start or grow a business.
- Small Business Development Program
You could qualify for a government rebate of up to $15,000 to increase your export capacity.
- Small Business Enterprise Centres
Get help to start or grow your small business in Ontario.
- Small Business Loan Guarantee Program
You could borrow up to $500,000 to help establish or grow your Nova Scotia business.
- Small Business Tax Credit
You can benefit from a reduced rate of taxation for your small business.
- Social Enterprise Ontario
Your social enterprise with an environmental or social goal for Francophones may be eligible for grants of up to $16,000 or loans of up to $40,000.
- Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council — Partnerships
You could get help with your projects in social sciences and humanities from colleges and universities in Canada.
- Starter Company
As a youth entrepreneur, you may be eligible for funding of up to $5,000 and business skills training to help you a start or expand a business.
- Strategic Aerospace and Defence Initiative
If your aerospace and defence company is incorporated in Canada, you could receive money for R&D projects in Canada.
- Strategic Industries Development Fund
If your business undertakes a strategic industry-related project, you may be eligible for funding if the project provides positive economic outcomes.
- Strategic Investments Program
You could get funding to start or grow a business, or to help build Nunavut's economy if you run a not-for-profit corporation or society.
- Strategic Investments in Northern Economic Development
Find out how your northern business could get up to $99,999 for a project that creates jobs and helps develop the North.
- Student Summer Employment Wage Subsidy Program
You could get a wage subsidy to hire a high school or post-secondary student for the summer.
- Student Summer Works (SSW) Program
You may be eligible to apply for a wage subsidy to hire a student for your Saskatchewan-based business this summer.
- Supplier Development Program
Learn how to identify and access public sector supply opportunities.
- Tourism Product Diversification and Marketing Program
Access funding to develop your tourism business in the Northwest Territories.
- Training on the Job
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.
- Wage Incentive — One-job Pledge
You could receive wage reimbursements for 52 weeks to hire a recent post-secondary graduate.
- Western Diversification Program
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
Your Western business could get financial assistance to bring innovative products, processes and services to market.
- Wholesale Marketing Program
Are you looking to develop wholesale markets for your business’ craft, gift and apparel products? This program could help your venture’s sales growth.
- Women's Enterprise Centre (Manitoba)
Are you a woman entrepreneur looking to start, expand or purchase a business? Get help to improve your business skills and acquire financing.
- Work Ability
You could be eligible for wage subsidies to provide participants with job exposure to make them "job ready".
- Workplace Innovation and Productivity Skills Incentive
You can apply for funding to train your employees and help boost productivity.
- Yukon Agriculture Development
You could receive funding to develop agricultural projects that can improve the economic conditions of your region.
- Yukon Small Business Investment Tax Credit
As an active Yukon entrpreneur, you can apply for a certificate to attract investors with a tax credit.
- Yukon Tourism Cooperative Marketing Fund
Apply for up to $105,000 in funding to help your tourism business pay for costs associated with marketing.
Get advice and guidance from an experienced business mentor for 6 months. Benefit from personalized support to keep on track.
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.
- Government grants and financing
Find out about government grants, loans, and other financing available for your business.
- Private sector financing
Your business may be eligible for different types of 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.
- Investing in Commercialization Partnerships (Southern Ontario)
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.
- Investing in Regional Diversification (Southern Ontario)
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.
- Innovative Communities Fund (Atlantic Canada)
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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