Evidence of meeting #6 for Special Committee on Cooperatives in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was co-ops.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Lyndon Carlson  Senior Vice-President, Marketing, Farm Credit Canada
  • Rob Malli  Chief Financial Officer, Vancouver City Savings Credit Union
  • Michael Hoffort  Senior Vice-President, Portfolio and Credit Risk, Farm Credit Canada
  • Glen Tully  President of the Board, Home Office, Federated Co-operatives Limited
  • Vic Huard  Vice-President, Corporate Affairs, Home Office, Federated Co-operatives Limited
  • Andy Morrison  Chief Executive Officer, Arctic Co-operatives Limited
  • John McBain  Vice-President, Alberta Association of Co-operative Seed Cleaning Plants
  • Shona McGlashan  Chief Governance Officer, Mountain Equipment Co-op
  • Margie Parikh  Vice-Chair, Board of Directors, Mountain Equipment Co-op
  • Neil Hastie  President and Chief Executive Officer, Encorp Pacific (Canada)
  • Kenneth Hood  President, Kootenay Columbia Seniors Housing Cooperative
  • Darren Kitchen  Director, Government Relations, Co-operative Housing Federation of British Columbia

2:45 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Thank you very much.

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Blake Richards

Great. Thank you.

We will move to Mr. Boughen.

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Welcome to our panellists and to our individual person, Mr. McBain.

I have three questions I'd like you folks to deal with this afternoon. The first one is for you, John.

I'm wondering how many plants are really necessary in the seed-cleaning business. We know that the technology has brought forward different techniques and strategies to speed things up and make them more efficient. Is that true for the seed-cleaning business?

2:45 p.m.

Vice-President, Alberta Association of Co-operative Seed Cleaning Plants

John McBain

Last year we cleaned a little over 33 million bushels in our 71 plants. This year we are going to be quite a ways above that, because more of these plants have put in colour sorters and that sort of thing.

The biggest thing is that we've had a big problem with ergot in our wheat. In the one plant that is quite close to us, at Beiseker, their volumes went from over 600,000 bushels to 1.8 million bushels in just over the year and a half after they put in their colour sorter.

If we can get these technologies and stuff, there is a huge demand out there.

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

Thank you.

When I look at the outdoor equipment operation, certainly you folks at Mountain Equipment are capturing most of the buying market, I would suggest, at this time.

I'm interested in your thoughts, Margie. I have the feeling that you're saying that there is a place for government to help co-ops get going. They put money on the table. There are three levels of government: municipal, provincial, and federal. Which level of government do you think should be involved in getting start-up funds in place for new co-ops coming on?

2:45 p.m.

Vice-Chair, Board of Directors, Mountain Equipment Co-op

Margie Parikh

I don't know that I can answer that definitively. I would say that because we're looking at the federal co-op act, we're talking about the federal level.

Tying that into an earlier question, start-ups, whether they're co-ops or not, may require funding. But if you combine that with the recognition that the cooperative model is good for us—it's good for our communities and it's good for Canadians—that's where I would say we should be looking at supporting that particular model.

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

That's as opposed to putting the same number of dollars into health care.

2:45 p.m.

Vice-Chair, Board of Directors, Mountain Equipment Co-op

Margie Parikh

I wouldn't trade off health care.

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

I guess I am saying that there's one pot of gold; there's not a whole bunch. We have to draw on that pot of gold to help a whole lot of things, and co-ops may well be one of them.

2:50 p.m.

Vice-Chair, Board of Directors, Mountain Equipment Co-op

Margie Parikh

Yes. In terms of looking at supporting small businesses, I'm not saying that we shouldn't be supporting all small businesses. But I would like an understanding and a recognition of the role cooperatives play, not only from an economic perspective but also from the community involvement and engagement perspective.

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

Sure. Okay.

Neil, on recycling, SARCAN is Saskatchewan's recycling giant. It handles everything from plastic to paper to used TVs and used video recorders and all those kinds of things. There are a ton of plants around the province. In fact, they do such a good job that those that scavenge in the ditches of the highways and byways of the province don't find many tin cans, because tin cans are also part of the recycling business there. It covers a lot.

That's also available in towns and cities for residents and businesses. Businesses do a lot of recycling. It's not so much with the residential operation. How do you see that you can increase the interest of residents in recycling things?

We're big recyclers. We do paper. We do cans. We do bottles. Our trash in a week is a little wee bag. It's next to nothing.

2:50 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Encorp Pacific (Canada)

Neil Hastie

You're absolutely right that the beverage container side is pretty well looked after. I think actually SARCAN and Saskatchewan have in fact a leadership role. They get the highest rate of recycling of beverage containers. Beverage containers are a very small part of the consumer packaging stream. It's all the other...what we typically think goes into our blue boxes. It's all of that material we're not doing very well with, and that's where the big opportunity is. We're burying millions of tons of perfectly good plastic and fibre in the ground every year. That was the perspective I was offering up. We're going to have to have a higher level of citizen engagement to crack that nut.

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Palliser, SK

Yes, there's independent—

2:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Blake Richards

Sorry, I'll have to stop you there, as time has expired.

We'll move now to Mr. Harris for the next five minutes.

July 26th, 2012 / 2:50 p.m.

NDP

Dan Harris Scarborough Southwest, ON

Thank you.

Of course the experience with recycling varies from coast to coast to coast in terms of the programs and availabilities and the costs and the differences between single-family dwellings and apartment buildings, for instance, many of which were built before recycling programs came into being, and they recycle at much lower rates.

I want to spend all my time with Mountain Equipment Co-op. I've been a member now for almost 17 years. I've still got the first backpack I bought from MEC, which I still use regularly, although this one's a little better for committee business.

I wanted to touch on Ms. Gallant's comments. It's actually very easy to find on the website if you go to the home page and go to “Sustainability”, and then from there you have a link to “Partnerships and Affiliations”, where all the national and regional partnerships are listed, as well as the “1% for the Planet”. There's an incredible amount of information on MEC's website, things that you would never see on a traditional business website in terms of the governance of the organization, in terms of how you stack up versus other organizations and companies.

I was very happy to see you come today and say you're doing okay and you don't need any help, but that where the help is needed is with the start-ups, with structural and financial supports. Yes, of course, governments have to make decisions, and this government, unfortunately, in our opinion has made decisions to provide large corporate tax cuts with absolutely no incentives towards job creation, but they can't find a few million dollars to help start-ups and cooperatives come together to actually build communities. We've been hearing time and time again from people that this is what co-ops are. They are in the community, they're for the community, they help grow the community, and they're about developing the economies of those local areas.

There's a strange phenomenon that often exists with MEC. For instance, in Toronto, when the store first located on Front Street, every outdoor outfitter in Toronto moved in next door. It then moved to Spadina and King and the same thing happened, where you kind of create a microclimate of everything to do with outdoors.

I noticed in reading this document that it actually reminded me of the magazines we used to get, which of course used to contain your members' ballots as well as information about board of directors. To be better for the environment, of course, that's where the e-mail came in instead. So that was a move MEC made so it would have less of an impact on the environment, and congratulations on that.

One of the statements made under “Returns and Redemptions” was that “member capital is MEC's main source of funding for future growth, given its limited access to other sources of funding due to its co-operative structure”. That statement sounds as if perhaps you had some problems seeking financing in the past. Do those kinds of structural challenges still exist, or does MEC prefer to self-fund everything?