House of Commons Hansard #130 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was human.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Cooperatives
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, to follow up on the question just raised, I would like to point out to the House what the CDI really is. Government documents state, “The co-operative development initiative managed by the Co-operatives Secretariat is the first federal program specifically designed to research and test the co-operative model and to assist in the development of co-operatives”.

Those are wonderful words from the other side, wonderful words in terms of its support of co-operatives and everything they do, but the government is undermining those very co-operatives by cutting the program 75%. Co-operatives, as has been said by all speakers today, are an important part of the rural economy. It is because of those co-operatives that jobs are being created.

Again, would the government be willing to reconsider the CDI program and not cut it? If it really means what it says in terms of improving the economy, then that program should be left in place so that co-operatives can grow and build and have community support to see that the economy survives in rural Canada as well?

Opposition Motion—Cooperatives
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, I referred to 750,000 net new jobs in the Canadian economy since July 2009, 90% of which are full-time jobs and most of them high-paying jobs. Those jobs are not just in urban centres. Those jobs exist across the board in Canada, both in the urban economy and the rural economy.

To the member's point, we can take a look at the funding that is still being provided to co-operatives through, for example, the regional development agencies, and I mentioned that in my speech.

The hon. member is from Atlantic Canada and he might be interested to know about some of the funding through ACOA, for example: $57,000 to the Cooperative des Pecheurs de Baie Ste. Anne to hire experts to prepare and implement a restructuring plan; the Northumberland Co-operative Limited to improve product shelf life and quality; and Tignish Fisheries Co-operative Association, Ltd., for efficiency improvements within processing operations.

I can read off many more examples of how this government has made significant investments in co-operatives. We see the significant success that has developed out of that.

Opposition Motion—Cooperatives
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member is wrong in his last response. Last week the ACOA minister cut all the economic development—

Opposition Motion—Cooperatives
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The member will know that is a matter of debate, not a point of order.

The hon. member for Medicine Hat.

Opposition Motion—Cooperatives
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that my wife has a membership in a Medicine Hat co-op and through that membership we buy a lot of goods. I know for a fact that co-operatives are profitable. My wife gets an annual dividend, which is very nice.

A lot of people are not aware of co-operatives. Could the hon. member advise us of any ideas that he might have which would help people across the country become members and participate in the co-operative lifestyle?

Opposition Motion—Cooperatives
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, the starting point would be to refer Canadians to the speech I gave because there are significant examples there.

If we want to talk about the strength of co-operatives in Canada, we need only look at the numbers. Co-operatives have more than $252 billion in assets. They are owned by their members and the communities they serve, and the hon. member spoke to that.

The survival rate of co-ops is higher than that of traditional businesses. A 2008 study in Quebec, for example, found that 62% of new co-ops are still operating after five years, compared with 35% for other businesses.

There are more than 90,000 co-ops in Canada. They exist across the country. There are 18 million members across the country, which is evidence that the co-operative community, the co-operative model, is thriving in Canada under this government.

Opposition Motion—Cooperatives
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am concerned by the cuts, the loss of $4 million to the co-operative development initiative, particularly because 2012 is the United Nations International Year of Cooperatives.

We talk about economic development and the government's economic action plan. I would appeal to the member that we use this opposition day debate to explore ways, through greater support and investment in the tools that help co-operatives and credit unions, to expand their operations. That expands job opportunities. That is part of an economic action plan. I would ask my hon. friend if there is not scope to support the motion today.

Opposition Motion—Cooperatives
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, since the hon. member comes from a western riding, I will use the opportunity to talk about some of the investments that have been made through Western Economic Diversification.

The Bison Feeder Co-operative of Saskatchewan, Kronau Community Recreation Co-operative, Lucky Lake Co-operative Community Centre, High Prairie Seed Cleaning Co-op, which I mentioned earlier, Venables Valley Producers Co-op and the Farmers' Markets Association of Manitoba co-op are significant examples of investments that have been made through WED with regard to co-operatives.

As I mentioned in my speech, there will continue to be programs that are available to co-operatives just like they are available to non-co-op enterprises through the Business Development Bank of Canada and through different regional development agencies.

Co-ops across the country can take advantage of those tremendous opportunities but, most important, they will be able to take advantage of one of the strongest economies in the developed world right in Canada.

Opposition Motion—Cooperatives
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the cutbacks are not only affecting co-operatives.

For example, ACOA, which is responsible for economic development in the Atlantic regions, had its budget cut by $18 million. There may have been investments in co-operatives, but now that $18 million has been cut from the ACOA budget—and with the cutbacks to economic development in every region of the Atlantic—how can the member say that his government is going to do the right thing in the future? Bill C-38 proposes an $18 million cutback to regional economic development.

Opposition Motion—Cooperatives
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, the entire point of this conversation is to talk about the future. In the future, Canada will have a balanced budget before most industrialized countries around the world. We will be in a stronger competitive position. We can already see the momentum that is building. We have, as I have mentioned a couple of times, over 750,000 net new jobs in Canada. That is over 750,000 Canadians who are working today who were not working in July 2009. That is very significant.

Because of that, co-operatives, non-co-op enterprises, workers, companies and families across the country will be better served by the measures we are taking today.

Opposition Motion—Cooperatives
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, the lockout of Rio Tinto Alcan employees and the layoff of Electro-Motive Diesel workers in London sends a clear message: it is no longer possible to oppose the economic and sustainable development of our resources and communities.

Responsible economic policy must factor in the environmental and social costs that result from our collective choices. Currently, we risk placing a huge environmental, economic and social millstone around the necks of future generations. On Friday, the government made another clear choice against the interests of communities by reneging on its commitment to work with the opposition and communities to fix some of the weak links in the Investment Canada Act.

The NDP has always been a strong proponent of the co-operative movement, which supports grassroots businesses. These businesses truly understand that their well-being and that of the community are linked. It is therefore quite fitting, in this the International Year of Co-operatives, that I rise to speak to the Liberal Party motion. I also take this opportunity to inform the Speaker that I will have the honour of sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Welland.

Co-operatives have been part of our history for over 100 years. They have helped build our economy and our communities. According to the Canadian Co-operative Association, over 18 million people are members of Canadian co-operatives and credit unions and there are over 9,000 co-operatives in Canada. That means that four in 10 Canadians are members of a co-operative.

According to the Co-operatives Secretariat, co-operatives contribute some $252 billion to the economy, money that does not go to just a few shareholders, but is distributed within the communities they serve. Better still, the co-operative movement creates jobs, employing over 155,000 people.

Canada has many co-operatives, including Co-op, The Co-operators—as the Conservative member just mentioned, UFA, Co-op Atlantic, Mountain Equipment Co-op, Arctic Co-operatives Limited and Vancity. In Quebec, Desjardins, Agropur, the Coop fédérée and many others are among Canada's largest co-operative movements and have become major economic players. This is proof positive that there is strength in numbers. The co-operative movement continues to make a significant contribution to society through the strength of its members and the principles of the movement.

My riding, LaSalle—Émard, is home to a number of innovative and successful co-operatives. They create good local jobs and contribute to economic development in our neighbourhoods. For example, Café Bistro Monk, a fun and friendly place, is doing so much to help revitalize Monk Street. The Coopérative Enfance Famille, which manages the centralized waiting list for child care services in Montreal, Mauricie and central Quebec, helps parents find day care spots and relieves day care centres of some of their administrative burden.

Finally, I should also mention the Coopératives jeunesse de services, which are managed by the Carrefour Jeunesse Emploi LaSalle and the Carrefour jeunesse-emploi du Sud-Ouest and provide summer jobs for high school students. In addition to giving students their first job experience in the community, this excellent initiative also provides young participants with the opportunity to do different tasks and to assume responsibility for managing various contracts, revenues and resources.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind you that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Welland.

The resiliency of co-operatives has been proven. A study by Quebec's department of economic development, innovation and export trade indicates that the long-term survival rate of co-operatives is almost twice—I did say twice—that of investor-owned businesses. That is quite a record.

Co-operatives are democratic enterprises that seek to meet the social and economic needs of their members. The underlying values of the movement are the same ones that the NDP defends: working together and fostering inclusion, confidence and fairness among citizens. Co-operatives will be there to face the ever-increasing challenges of our society by providing an innovative model and real solutions that meet the needs of the people in the community.

For over 20 years, Quebec has had a co-operative investment plan that has helped a number of co-operatives develop and flourish, and has also helped generate $393 million in new investments in co-operatives.

To much fanfare, Canada's Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food recently reaffirmed his government's commitment to the co-operative movement in this International Year of Co-operatives, recognized by the UN. Shortly thereafter, this same minister cut $4 million from the Conseil de développement coopératif and the Co-operative Development Initiative. This hypocrisy inspired Denyse Guy, from the Canadian Co-operative Association, to say:

If the government is truly committed to creating jobs and fostering innovation, we can't understand why it would cut a program that cost very little...and made a difference in hundreds of communities across the country.... It created jobs, fostered innovation, and gave co-operatives the ability to leverage additional funds at the provincial and community levels.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that cuts to funding for housing co-operatives and the federal government's withdrawal of support is jeopardizing this type of housing, particularly in my riding. These housing co-operatives are absolutely crucial. They enable low-income families and seniors to live decent lives.

In conclusion, I would like to say that I support the Liberal Party's motion to create a committee that would examine the importance of co-operatives, even though I believe that is already clear. I would like to add that this motion could go much further by getting straight to the point and calling on the government to take action.

The government must start by reinstating the $4 million in funding for the Co-operative Development Initiative that it recently cut. We must work with regional economic development agencies and support the development of the co-operative movement.

The NDP supports the development of a co-operative investment plan that could help rural communities tackle the problem of declining population.

In this International Year of Co-operatives, the very least that Canada could do is to show its good will by supporting these important vectors of our economy and society.

Opposition Motion—Cooperatives
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from LaSalle—Émard for her passionate speech on the subject of co-operatives. I know that she is very involved in her community and the co-operatives there.

I find it very interesting that, at the end of her speech, my colleague suggested ways of finding solutions, that is, how we can go further in supporting these co-operatives that are important players in the economy and that provide services that suit the needs of communities.

Could my colleague tell us a little more about what the co-operatives are asking? Perhaps she is aware of the needs and requirements of co-operatives at this time. How can we promote the development of co-operatives in Quebec and Canada?

Opposition Motion—Cooperatives
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, co-operatives are a key economic vector. Often what they are looking for is start-up capital. After that, they are often able to finance their own operations. Often, they need a secretariat or a location.

The Co-operatives Secretariat acted as a facilitator to help groups of people who wanted to start co-operatives. That is what I think the federal government's role would be: to provide start-up funding and also start-up assistance for co-operatives.

Opposition Motion—Cooperatives
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the member a question because the parliamentary secretary for the Minister of Industry tried to make it sound like other agencies, like federal development agencies, are covering off for the cuts to the CDI. I know in Atlantic Canada they are not because 10 days ago the minister in charge of ACOA cut every regional economic development organization in Atlantic Canada, though they were responsible for 130 jobs last year and one of them manages $9 million worth of assets.

We have to look at the whole picture in terms of the government's strategy. I believe there is a real attack by this government on rural Canada. It is cutting back on economic development agencies. It is cutting the CDI, which is important, while it is giving big business all the advantages, such as reducing corporate taxes and so forth.

Could the member tell us, in terms of the big picture not only of co-operatives but of other areas, where there is federal government involvement that is undermining the ability of rural communities and co-operatives in rural Canada to survive and prosper along with the rest of the country? This is not a country that is just based on oil. It is a country that should be based on community.

Opposition Motion—Cooperatives
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think my colleague expressed very clearly the danger of weakening our communities by favouring one kind of industry.

We must remember that, as a government, we must govern for all communities. One of Canada's basic characteristics is in fact the wealth of its communities, the diversity of its regions and the various places that people live in and have developed. There is a real danger because, by weakening our rural areas and our remote areas, little by little we are dismantling the very identity of our country.

I think that funding for co-operatives—which are, as my colleague from Pierrefonds—Dollard said so clearly, businesses or economic vectors that exactly suit the needs of their communities and regions—is absolutely vital if we want to make our huge, beautiful country a country that is vibrant and dynamic, no matter where we live.