Ste. Anne Co-operative Oil Ltd.: Fueling Manitoba's communities

Written by: 
Emma Gregg
Produced by: 
Victor Martins

Ninety years ago, a group of farmers in the Steinbach, Landmark and Blumenort districts of Manitoba, Canada, banded together to purchase a railway car of distillate. Whenever there was extra fuel, instead of hoarding it, the farmers sold it to neighbors for the same discounted price.

These farmers and homeowners became the first members of Ste. Anne Co-operative Oil Ltd., a member-owned fuel cooperative, when the business incorporated in 1931.

Today, Ste. Anne has over 29,000 members and continues to offer competitive fuel prices by operating 11 gas stations and five cardlocks located across southeastern Manitoba. Members and non-members alike can fuel up at any of these locations, grab a snack from the connecting convenience store or take a spin through the touchless automated car wash.

Ste. Anne Co-operative Oil Ltd.

However, only pre-approved customers have access to the cooperative’s larger network of 280 cardlock facilities that allow them to fill up more quickly than if they were to use an average gas station. These cash-free fuel stations are open 24/7, 365 days a year and are operated through use of a cardlock card.

Members are also privy to the Ste. Anne’s bulk petroleum and propane delivery services. And with the co-op being a member and owner of the Federated Co-operatives Limited, the largest cooperative in Canada, all their savings—on bulk fuel and other purchases—are boosted by the buying power granted to Ste. Anne through this partnership.

The cooperative has come a long way from a few farmers distributing fuel to neighbors in the Steinbach, Landmark and Blumenort area. But even after 90 years in business, its management has never forgotten the sharing mentality of the co-op’s founders, says General Manager Henry Nickel.

Ste. Anne is still 100 percent member-owned, “and everything we do is for the benefit of our members,” he says. “The only difference is that our community has grown to include all of southeast Manitoba.”

Consumer turned owner

Joining the cooperative begins with a $10 a year membership fee, and is the same price whether the member is a student driving his or her first car, a commercial business or the owner of a fleet of trucks.

And while anyone driving through Manitoba can make purchases at Ste. Anne’s stations and convenience stores, becoming a member means having a say in how the business is run.

Ste. Anne Co-operative Oil Ltd.

Members elect the people who will serve on the cooperative’s board of directors, who in turn give direction to Nickel and the rest of the management team.

“Being a member is being an owner in the company,” Nickel says. “And best of all, if the cooperative is profitable, then you share in the profits.”

At the end of the year, when Ste. Anne adds up its total net earnings, the cooperative divides the net savings among its members proportionate to how much each member spent. The more members buy, the more they see it paid back at the end of the year.

Bulk service

On the wholesale side, Ste. Anne also delivers fuel to members’ farms, commercial businesses and homes.

Nickel says the cooperative’s propane department’s team of gas fitters can install and maintain any size or type of propane tank, and can even help members choose the right tank for their needs. They ask: is the member’s demand for propane fuel continuous or temporary? How close is the tank from the nearest Ste. Anne fueling station? By knowing the right questions, he says the cooperative can ensure that members keep warm, keep moving and always have a full tank. 

And with six fuel tankers, “we have the largest fleet in all southeast Manitoba, which allows us to be in many locations at the same time and provide top-notch service for our members,” Nickel says.

Ste. Anne is certified by Top Tier Detergent Gasoline and exclusively sells its gasoline, which has a higher concentration of detergent additives that keep engines clean and running smooth. Automakers like BMW, General Motors, Honda and Toyota even recommend Top Tier certified gasolines in their owner’s manuals because it helps improve the life of their engines.

Ste. Anne Co-operative Oil Ltd.

Nickel, who has been with Ste. Anne’s for over four decades, says there is never a dull moment working at the cooperative.

“It’s an exciting place to work with all the growth we’ve had. But at the end of the day [our goal] is always how can we benefit our members, and that purpose means that we’re working for a greater cause than just a paycheck,” he says.

In this way, Nickel believes Ste. Anne’s is remaining true to the mission of the cooperative’s founding farmers when they began distributing fuel to their neighbors all those years ago.

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