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Evidence of meeting #3 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 cooperatives.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Claude Carrière  Associate Deputy Minister, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
John Connell  Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Sector, Department of Industry
Jeremy Rudin  Assistant Deputy Minister, Financial Sector Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Denyse Guy  Executive Director, Canadian Co-operative Association
Marion Wrobel  Vice-President, Policy and Operations, Canadian Bankers Association
Stephen Fitzpatrick  Vice-President, Corporate Services and Chief Financial Officer, Credit Union Central of Canada
Nicholas Gazzard  Executive Director, National Office, Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada
Frank Lowery  Senior Vice-President, Senior Counsel and Secretary, The Co-operators Group
John Taylor  President, Ontario Mutual Insurance Association
Michael Barrett  Chief Operations Officer, Gay Lea Foods Cooperative Ltd.
Bob Friesen  Farmers of North America

11:20 a.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Co-operative Association

Denyse Guy

I would say we haven't gone into those kinds of details. We're at the very high level in terms of looking at the potential for a new partnership. We haven't gone into any of those kinds of details at this point.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

You talked about the CFDC network across Canada and its relationship with cooperatives. My understanding is that there's a fairly good working relationship with the cooperatives network and the CFDC network across Canada.

11:20 a.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Co-operative Association

Denyse Guy

I would say it's at an individual CFDC level, and there are lots of great partnerships happening. Certainly there are many board members, similar to what you said about credit unions, who are board members of CFDC. Those kinds of relationships are happening, but it's not an institutional relationship at a national level in terms of a partnership, and that's what we're looking for.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

That's what you're moving towards.

11:20 a.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Co-operative Association

Denyse Guy

Yes. We're also looking for all staff at CFDCs to understand the cooperative enterprise and the way it's organized.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Thank you very much.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blake Richards

Thank you.

We'll move to our last round of questioning for this panel, and it will be Mr. Harris.

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Thank you.

To the witnesses, thank you for coming today.

Mr. Fitzpatrick, during your comments earlier you mentioned how the 2011 budget contained a recommendation for applying a small business lens. Is this actually happening yet? Has that recommendation come through? What's happening there?

11:20 a.m.

Vice-President, Corporate Services and Chief Financial Officer, Credit Union Central of Canada

Stephen Fitzpatrick

The committee on red tape—I'm not sure that's actually what it was called, but that's what we call it—made recommendations on ways to reduce the administrative burden for smaller businesses. It's really too soon at this stage to say that credit unions are being looked at through a small business lens. If that principle holds, then we expect we'll start to see that, or at least the door will be open for us to talk about it.

I know it's sometimes difficult to think of a financial institution as a small business, but some of them really are.

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

You're hopeful, but as of yet it hasn't happened.

11:20 a.m.

Vice-President, Corporate Services and Chief Financial Officer, Credit Union Central of Canada

Stephen Fitzpatrick

The discussions have yet to begin.

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Wrobel, in your comments about salaries and bonuses, you mentioned how the bonuses are going to executives and the rank and file.

11:20 a.m.

Vice-President, Policy and Operations, Canadian Bankers Association

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

What percentage goes to the rank and file versus the executives?

11:20 a.m.

Vice-President, Policy and Operations, Canadian Bankers Association

Marion Wrobel

That would be something that would be determined by the individual institutions. I don't have those numbers at all.

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

More or less than 50%, would you say?

11:20 a.m.

Vice-President, Policy and Operations, Canadian Bankers Association

Marion Wrobel

To rank and file? Oh, it's probably more than 50%.

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Out of $9.5 billion, roughly.

11:20 a.m.

Vice-President, Policy and Operations, Canadian Bankers Association

Marion Wrobel

Well, again, the way in which individual institutions compensate their employees is a decision they make. They want to ensure they can attract top talent. They want to make sure they incent their employees to perform well—

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

I'm going to stop you there. When you say “incent employees”, I know people who've been working at Canada's largest banks for over 20 years and they are still making less than $30,000. They haven't received a raise in a decade. It's not really incentivizing rank and file but the upper echelons. That's getting away from the committee purpose on cooperatives, but as it was talked about earlier, I wanted to bring that up.

The remaining questions will be for Madame Guy.

You were speaking earlier about the research that's been done and that you don't have access to it yet. What kinds of efforts have you made to get that research? Do you think it's going to be lost, or do you think you'll be able to gain access to it?

11:25 a.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Co-operative Association

Denyse Guy

I think the rural and cooperatives secretariat is just finalizing how it's restructuring. We have a very good relationship with them, but we are concerned. The capacity within that department is completely devastated. It's going from I think 92 staff members down to six or eight, with three people being part of the cooperative secretariat. We are concerned.

We will confirm that they have been able to do internal restructuring. We now know who the staff are who are going to remain within the cooperative secretariat, so our next process is to discuss how we can have access to that information.

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

I think that could make up one of our first recommendations: to make sure that this research isn't lost and is made available.

Now, Mr. Carrière, who was here earlier, stated that both CDI and the secretariat had fulfilled their mandates and weren't needed any more, and that this is why the service was being cut.

Mr. Marston asked him right at the end, so we didn't have an opportunity to follow up, whether these cuts were preplanned or only came about as a result of austerity measures. Monsieur Carrière didn't actually answer that question. I was hoping that perhaps the chair could be in touch and ask him to provide an answer on that question to the committee. I think it is really important to determine why those cuts were happening and whether they were preplanned and part of a process or simply done for austerity measures.

Ms. Guy, you disagree that they fulfilled their mandates. Would you elaborate more on that?

11:25 a.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Co-operative Association

Denyse Guy

As a sector, we fully understand that we have to deal with our deficit. The government has some real, strong economic challenges. We understand that and we understand the job. But the reality, both in terms of the role of the cooperative secretariat and the program—the CDI—is that they were very instrumental in supporting the cooperative sector in Canada.

Obviously we are concerned by this. We are looking at other, new opportunities within the government. Within the sector, we are also looking at how we can restructure ourselves to perhaps provide some of the services that are lost. But again I want to reiterate that the fact that we do not have the funding for the cooperative development initiative will affect the emerging cooperatives.

We're not talking about the established co-ops; we are talking about the emerging cooperatives that are locally based, providing services and jobs and creating the services that are needed within not only rural communities but also urban communities. There's huge potential for cooperatives to develop services or programs for new Canadians and support social cohesion and immersion in the Canadian community, and that's a lost opportunity.

It's the same thing with first nations communities across the country. There are many examples of how the cooperative model has been used in developing and programming. That's also a lost opportunity.

The cooperative model established economic development across the country and will continue to do that, and will be continuing to do it world-wide. But we need to have a partnership with government, and that's what we're seeking.

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blake Richards

Thank you. I'm sorry, but time has expired.

And with that, our time has elapsed for this panel.

We have a point of order from Mr. Bélanger.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

I have here a copy of the letter that was sent by the chairman of the CCA, and its translation. If I give it to the clerk, perhaps he could distribute it to the members this afternoon.