Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I’d like to thank the witnesses for being here this morning.
There are over 9,000 cooperatives in Canada with 18 million members. We know that, historically, it began very modestly in the early 1900s. Each community had specific people, needs and services. There were a lot of agricultural and financial groups, in particular. In Quebec, insurance cooperatives, including Promutuel, also really played an important role in our country.
There is a marked trend for cooperatives to be in small communities, but also in much larger ones, too. They competed with some services that the cities offered. If we will recall a bit of history, we know that the banks were located mainly in the cities and large communities. They did not necessarily go and provide services to small communities, like the one where the Mouvement Desjardins began, which provided more of a local service.
Then, 25 or 30 years ago, we noted the trend of cooperatives to group into federations to provide services for one another. They needed expertise and buildings to manage themselves and audit one another. In 25 years, we have also seen a lot of mergers. Previously, we often saw two cooperatives merge. Today, 10, 12, 15 and sometimes as many as 20 cooperatives merge to provide services.
Do you think that trend will continue? Or will it stop? What challenges might it present for cooperatives? People are generally proud to be members of a cooperative, to have an active share. But when they become larger, this feeling of belonging from members may be lost. We are starting to feel it in the community. Members are finding that their cooperative is becoming so large, but so far from what the basic initiative was.