Into the blue

How credit unions can adapt to the new UCP government


Credit unions have been garnering more attention from the Alberta government recently. But, given the shift from the New Democrat Party (NDP) to the United Conservative Party (UCP) in April, what does that mean for the system?

The NDP government supported credit unions by opening up the Credit Union Act for revisions for the first time in 30 years. This enabled a consultation process with Alberta Central and credit unions working towards making changes to the Act, such as adding alternative lines of business like insurance. The NDP government was also quite accessible, and appreciated the credit unions commitment to membership that aligned with the party mentality.

That said, credit unions – like all financial institutions – strive to manage political risk appropriately and not behave in an overly partisan fashion. This ensures that if governments change, the transition is as seamless as possible, and does not create any undue business risk to credit unions.

For example, work that began under the NDP education minister to include financial literacy in the provincial review of K-12 curriculum is expected to continue under the UCP, who have indicated they would also like to see financial literacy included in their curriculum development. Alberta Central is working right now with UCP contacts to ensure credit unions have a seat at the table for consultation on this initiative.

Now that things have shifted to the UCP, credit unions are presented with an important opportunity.

With a slate of 47 brand new elected MLAs (five NDP and 42 UCP), there’s an opportunity for Alberta Central and the system to work together to reach out to these individuals and inform them about the credit union system; both at a high-level and looking at the local impacts in their communities. The more people who know about what we offer as financial institutions and our focus on building and supporting communities, the better positioned the system will be moving forward.

In addition, there’s a great prospect for credit unions with a strong rural presence, given there are now 40 MLAs who represent communities outside Calgary and Edmonton. The influence of rural Alberta represents a much bigger voice in this government in comparison to years’ past; the rural population has not had this significant weight in quite a number of years. Credit unions located outside urban hubs should start working now to establish these important political connections with their local provincial representatives.

What does this mean for credit unions?

Credit unions should focus on developing relationships with their local elected officials. Branch staff may already know a lot of these individuals – from school or work or volunteering – and can help build on these existing connections or forge new ones. Start by inviting MLAs to credit union events or attending political fundraising events they are organizing. The more credit unions across the system can make our collective voice heard, the better positioned we will be when the Government makes decisions that may impact our business. Alberta Central also hosts an annual Government Relations Forum, this year on November 19 in Edmonton. Attending this event is another great way to meet with elected representatives from all political stripes and advocate for the system.

As the old saying goes, you can’t change the direction of the wind, but you can adjust your sails to reach your destination. Although the winds of government may have changed, credit unions and Alberta Central will continue working together to build relationships with government and ensure the system gets to where it wants to go.