House of Commons Hansard #18 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was co-operatives.

Topics

Business Of The House
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-5, an act respecting co-operatives, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canada Co-Operatives Act
Government Orders

October 22nd, 1997 / 6:10 p.m.

Reform

Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, Manitoba has many co-operatives. I happen to be a member of the Red River co-op located in Arborg and Teulon districts. I wonder how many other members of the House are members of a co-op and show their support through actual financial support.

I will leave that aside for a moment. The Manitoba Pool Elevators has a grain terminal at the end of a rail line owned by the CPR which runs up to the town of Arborg. This line is currently in the process of being abandoned. At some point it will be offered for sale to the federal government. I am not sure what the federal government's intentions are when that is done. The ultimate users of the line are the co-op members in that district.

My question would be along the lines of whether the provisions of the bill would assist co-op members to raise the capital necessary to buy this line and maybe operate it as a short line railway.

Canada Co-Operatives Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

John Harvard Charleswood—Assiniboine, MB

Mr. Speaker, I too am a member of a co-op. I just pulled my membership card out of my wallet. It is the Red River Co-operative Ltd. My membership number is 113284. I have also been a—

Canada Co-Operatives Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Stormont—Dundas, ON

Has it expired yet?

Canada Co-Operatives Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

John Harvard Charleswood—Assiniboine, MB

I do not know. It is in my wife's name. If it has expired she takes full responsibility.

I have been a member of the Astra Credit Union in the city of Winnipeg for I do not know how many years and it serves me very well.

With regard to the concern raised by the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake, I hope the particular matter would be addressed by the bill.

However it would be more appropriate for him or one of his party members to raise that question at committee. I am quite sure he could get the technical answer to the question.

Canada Co-Operatives Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise, at this late hour, to speak to Bill C-5, which however dry it may be, is still very important for both Canada's and Quebec's economies, even though the co-operative movement, which comes under federal law in Quebec, is not a strong presence under a federal charter.

The Bloc Quebecois supports this bill and will act as spokesperson for the co-operative movement in Canada and Quebec, which, after consultation, supports the bill in its entirety.

I would like to take this opportunity to salute the management and staff of the Caisse populaire Sainte-Madeleine, of which I am a member. I became the thousandth member in the early 1950s, and my father, Raoul Rocheleau, was a founding member in the 1940s.

I would also like to acknowledge the management and staff of the Fédération des caisses populaires de la région de la Mauricie, who do an extraordinary job in regional development, and to the management and staff of each of the caisses populaires in the riding of Trois-Rivières, which do a most effective job in their areas. In fact, I would say they make our constituents throughout the area feel more secure.

The caisses populaires and the Mouvement Desjardins form one of our major institutions, along with other major co-operatives, such as Agropur or the Coopérative fédérée de Québec, which are booming and continually growing both at home and abroad.

There are of course other kinds of co-operatives—housing, consumer protection and worker co-operatives—with new ones being developed all the time, particularly in the area of the new economy where Quebeckers are in the forefront technologically through their co-operative movement.

The Mouvement Desjardins is a jewel in Quebec's economic crown. We might well ask where Quebec would be economically if there were no Mouvement Desjardins. As proof, I have two accounts, which recently came to my attention, one personal and the other more a collective experience. The collective one is contained in the account of Mr. Ricardo Petrella, who spoke recently at a conference in Quebec City on social democracy.

As a European academic, a humanist, a thinker, a renowned philosopher and president of the club of Lisbon, he expressed the hope that the Mouvement Desjardins would not only continue to grow but that the Quebec co-operative movement, which is exemplary, would also continue to grow. However, he encouraged the management of the Mouvement Desjardins—and I urge them to heed his advice—to retain its truly co-operative quality in the face of the current trend to focus more on business.

These are the words of a credible individual, who is looking at the Mouvement Desjardins from outside and considers Quebeckers to be in an enviable position.

Another person who had good things to say was the British consul posted to Montreal, whom I recently had the honour to host in my riding. As he was going past the building of the Fédération des caisses populaires Desjardins, which I mentioned earlier, he interrupted me to say: “Yes, I know the Mouvement Desjardins. It is one of the very fine achievements of the Quebec people and is known internationally”. The consul, Mr. Rawlinson, praised it highly, and without prompting.

The Mouvement Desjardins has an international presence, particularly in developing countries in Africa, where, as in Quebec, the co-operative approach has helped give people more control over their destinies. One might well wonder what would have become of these people in Africa, and in Quebec, if they had not had the good sense, and the backing of the Mouvement Desjardins and its human resources, to take charge of their destiny by means of co-operatives.

I would, however, like to draw your attention to some reservations that the Bloc Quebecois has about certain clauses, particularly clause 3 regarding the purpose of the co-operative, which could have been confusing. I will read it rapidly:

  1. (1) The purposes of this Act are (a) to set out the law applicable to the business endeavours of persons who have associated themselves in a democratic manner to carry on a common purpose; and (b) to advance the cause of uniformity of co-operative business law in Canada.

(2) No co-operative may be incorporated under this Act unless (a) it will carry on its undertaking in two or more provinces;

This represents a victory by the co-operative movement, because the government initially intended to drop this clause, present in the earlier bill, which could have resulted in confusion in communities faced with both federally and provincially incorporated co-operatives for the same product.

In Quebec, in any case, it appears that this way was not desirable, and fortunately it appears that the government understood the message sent it.

Nevertheless, there is a word in clause 3 that poses a threat, in our opinion, and that word is “uniformity”. Uniformity, in the mouth of the federal government, means a lot of things. It can mean hegemony and centralization as we saw in the case of the securities commission and in the case of health care, where the government withdrew in financial terms but wanted to maintain national standards. We also saw it with the rumours of the federal government wanting to set up income collection agencies for the country as a whole, eliminating departments of revenue, including that of Quebec. Therefore, when a word like “uniformity” is used, it is cause for concern or at least for finding out the political will behind its use.

Clause 122 on distribution at dissolution contains a broad principle, which provides that the remaining property of a co-operative is to be distributed among the members. There are, however, two exceptions to this. One appears in clause 354 on housing co-operatives and the other appears in clause 361 on worker co-operatives.

In the case of housing co-operatives, without any explanation, the clause provides that any remaining property is to be distributed to other housing co-operatives rather than to members. There is no explanation. Perhaps this could be explained in committee soon.

Clause 361 on worker co-operatives provides that, rather than apply the general principle, at least 20% of the remaining property is to be distributed to another co-operative or a charitable entity before any distribution is made to members. Here again things seem a bit arbitrary.

There is no explanation for the double standards, where two types of major co-operatives, housing and worker co-operatives, are treated differently from what is provided for in the general principle applied to co-operatives on distribution at dissolution.

I conclude on this point by saying that the co-operative movement serves as a sort of insurance for people against the neo-liberal current in which people are increasingly divided, singled out and where individualism counts most, where governments are subjugated and where the social safety net is increasingly in jeopardy. The co-operative approach is doubtless the way to the future for people, who will learn to work together to develop solidarity from day one in their own community recognizing that mutual support and not the need to dominate is the way to success and to greater social justice.

Canada Co-Operatives Act
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is the House ready for the question?

Canada Co-Operatives Act
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Canada Co-Operatives Act
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canada Co-Operatives Act
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada Co-Operatives Act
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

On division.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Canada Co-Operatives Act
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think you would find unanimous consent to call it 6.30 p.m.

Canada Co-Operatives Act
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is there unanimous consent to call it 6.30 p.m.?

Canada Co-Operatives Act
Government Orders

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved