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Employee Ownership Canada: Where Success is OWNED!


History of the esop association canada 


In the late 1980s Perry Phillips (some refer to him as the godfather of Canadian ESOPs) was on the board of directors of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Business Valuators (CICBV) and chairman of its education committee. In his capacity as a valuator he was asked to value a company in Detroit Michigan, owned by a husband and wife who were retiring. They wanted to sell their company to their 150 employees. As he proceeded with the valuation he learned about the ESOP legislation that the owners were using to enable the ESOP to take place. It opened his eyes to how important the ESOP concept was to a country facing a large number of private business owners exiting their businesses and to the many businesses facing employee attraction and retention issues.

With the help of several like-minded persons Perry Phillips decided to set up the ESOP Association Canada as a non-profit organization to promote the concept to Canadian business owners and to provincial and federal governments. They raised start-up capital from several financial institutions and the CICBV. Their idea was to reach out to advisers who would jump at the chance to introduce ESOPS to their clients as a way to prosperity, once their clients' workforces became employee-owners committed to improving the bottom line.

Our first ever Canadian ESOP Conference was in Toronto back in September 1991 and it attracted 150 people including attendees from the USA and the UK. Over the next 10 years Perry spent most of his time lobbying the federal government to institute ESOP laws. They went through two helpful senators, the second one after the first retired. Our motto was "ESOPS-good for business and good for Canada", printed on tiny, business-card-sized accordion-fold information brochures in both official languages. We even had twenty minutes in a corridor of the Houses of Parliament with the Finance Minister (then soon to be prime minister), but to no avail. The annual conferences segued into a series of seminars and speaking engagements held twice a year in many Canadian cities.

Business owners themselves, it had become clear, understood the ESOP message best of all. Somehow the ESOP Book got written, in the days predating desk-top-and self-publishing. When we got down to the last carton of what he had thought would be a lifetime supply, He realized it needed an update and the Association a new future. At last, in June 2015, with an energetic new board, the Association renewed its true mandate with the presentation of the successful and well received Canadian Employee Ownership Conference, held appropriately in Winnipeg, the heart of Canada.

That 2015 Employee Ownership Conference created a new audience for the Association and attracted new volunteers as well.  The Conference became an annual held event moving to Kelowna, Gatineau, Edmonton, Toronto, and continuing to be held in various cities around Canada.   

In 2019 the Membership Committee put forth a proposal to move from a free membership model to a paid membership model and a budget was approved by the Board of Directors.  This was a huge step forward for our Association generating a potential new revenue source, streamlining how we communicate with our membership, how members communicate with each other and with Service Providers.  It also gives us access to more volunteers, and is giant step forward for our amazing association.

Our new paid membership model including a free 3 month trial period was rolled out in the fall of 2020.