Good evening and thank you for joining CAC and PILC in honouring Gloria Desorcy, our friend, colleague, fellow believer in and tireless worker for consumer rights. For some here she was family and on behalf of CAC I would like to express our deepest sympathy. For some of us she was also, and only incidentally, an employee. Actually, given what we were able to pay her we could say fellow volunteer.
I have a problem. I have 10 minutes to speak about Gloria on behalf of CAC Manitoba. In ten minutes, how can I possibly describe a force of nature!
When Gloria started working for CAC in 1987 much of what CAC did was consumer education and working directly with individual consumers to provide information and advice and assist in complaint handling.
She was responsible for managing the CAC Manitoba office and later the Consumer Info Centre and supervising volunteers. She identified and conducted research on topics of emerging interest to consumers and was instrumental in designing and delivering an amazing array of consumer education and information programs and services,.
Among her accomplishments at this time were
Through focus groups, speakers and her own experience Gloria introduced us to the concepts of Fair Trade, Free Trade, electric vehicles and car share long befoe they became common terms .
Moving forward operationally
Over the years, Gloria developed strategic partnerships and moved CAC into a much stronger advocacy role on a variety of issues.
In consultation with government and industry, and in public hearings before tribunals she worked on:
On the whole, the work Gloria did representing Manitoba was at the provincial level for instance at PUB and the Manitoba Clean Environment Commission. However, Gloria also represented the interests of Manitoba consumers before the CRTC and the National Energy Board (that was regarding the Manitoba/ Minnesota Transmission Line). As recently as last fall she represented Manitoba consumers in the Competition Bureau’s investigation into in the proposed purchase of Shaw by Rogers.
Moving forward physically
Gloria not only moved us into a new world operationally she also moved us physically. In 1987, the CAC office was on Portage Ave. Under Gloria’s direction we moved to a second-floor office on Osborne Street. Subsequent moves involved opening the Info Centre as a store front office, then moving the Info Centre to the second floor with the admin office on the third floor. This gave us a Board Room and room for focus groups which were becoming an important part of various contracts. Eventually we closed the second-floor office as the need for the Info Centre and our financial resources declined. At one point we also had to vacate a storage room in the basement.
Every move was almost a military operation of planning and preparation as resources and furniture and equipment were transferred, arrangements were made to change telephone and internet lines. All done while CAC continued to operate. Gloria handled all of this with quiet competence. No indication that operating at Confusion Corner had any influence on our office!
Keeping CAC afloat financially
Finances were an on-going challenge for CAC. Gloria was a past master at writing grant applications and contract proposals and at juggling bills as we waited for grants to be approved or payments to arrive. Somehow it always worked. This past year Jacquie and I have really experienced the waiting game first hand.
Various fundraising schemes were attempted. We didn’t quite get to selling chocolate bars but we did have poinsettia sales, door swag sales and fair trade coffee sales.
What we really needed was a source of income that was predictable and didn’t involve creating and applying for project funding every year. This need was met for several years when Gloria arranged for CAC to manage the CANVAP (Canadian Vehicle Arbitration Program.)
Collaboration and Co-operation vs competition
Gloria developed partnerships and contacts with a wide variety of organizations. The solid foundation Gloria built with PILC has been invaluable as Byron and Chris and Katrine and have worked with CAC to move into a post Gloria era.
Harvest Manitoba, the Aboriginal Council of Manitoba and CAC form the Consumer Coalition of Manitoba in representing the consumer view at PUB and other tribunals.
Gloria taught Families as Consumers at the University of Manitoba‘s Faculty of Human Ecology from 2005 to 2010. Research projects were done with assistance from U of M and U of W. KAP and National Farmers Union have contributed to workshops and panels.
Gloria as person and friend not executive director
People liked Gloria. She was intelligent and wise. Not only could she understand and juggle the complexities of the various issues and our contracts with OCA she could also see the opportunities in consumer trends and see the potential in the people she worked with. Lori was working as a volunteer in the office when Gloria suggested she apply for the volunteer management position. She was good humoured, even tempered and sympathetic. Barb Nielsen talks about the four hour lunches and I know how a “quick question” could become and hour long phone call! She always acknowledged illness and crises with a card or a phone call or flowers. She listened and gave credit where it was due (even when it maybe wasn’t). Before making any decision or announcement on behalf of CAC she always checked with the Directors. She would explain the issue or question and ask our opinion. Invariably, at the end of the conversation she would say it had been really helpful and she appreciated the help. For me, my help was mostly really in-depth comments like “uh uh” or “Can you explain that?” She believed in hospitality and in celebrating achievements. Board meetings featured coffee and goodies. IF a meeting happened to coincide with a special calendar date the goodies would reflect that and so might what Gloria was wearing! Jacquie can tell you about the picnic lunch she and Gloria served to other provincial CAC members at a meeting in Ottawa. When we opened the Storefront Info Centre we had a pancake breakfast. When I arrived, the batter was ready and griddle was getting warm but Gloria wanted to know how to know when the pancakes were done! Just goes to show that Gloria wasn’t afraid to try new things and was confident that, if you were prepared, things would work out!
I want to conclude by reminding you of what was Gloria’s raison d’etre for her work for CAC. She often referred to the concept of Consumer Rights and Responsibilities to explain CAC’s involvement in an issue.
The original four rights as identified in 1962 by President John Kennedy
Another four rights were added in 1985, by the United Nations.
Where there are rights there are responsibilities
How do we keep Gloria’s legacy alive? How does CAC move forward? We hope to continue this conversation with many of you in the near future.