Mr. Speaker, today in my capacity as federal minister responsible for co-operatives, I wish to recognize National Co-op Week in Canada and to pay tribute to these unique, democratic institutions and organizations that play such a significant role in the socioeconomic fabric of Canada.
Furthermore October 20 is recognized worldwide as International Credit Union Day.
The Prime Minister in his co-op week message mentioned that co-operatives strengthen the community and the country as a whole. This is nowhere more true than in the 900 communities in which credit unions or caisse populaires are the only financial institutions providing service. In northern Canada, after government institutions, co-operatives are the largest employers.
On the national scene, roughly 40 per cent of Canadians are co-op members. In the province of Quebec as in my own province of Saskatchewan some two-thirds of the population belong to a co-operative of one form or another. All together the 10,000 Canadian co-ops provide employment for 133,000 Canadians and represent total assets of $134 billion.
This year is of particular significance to co-operatives around the world because it represents the 150th anniversary of the formation of the first consumer's co-op in Rochdale, England.
As Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food, I recognize the important role that co-ops play in the agri-food industry. It has been estimated that co-operatives account for 48 per cent of the market share for poultry, 60 per cent of the market share for milk, and 70 per cent for grains.
To conclude, I want to congratulate the Canadian co-operative movement on its achievements and I urge this House to pay tribute to co-operative organizations during National Credit Union Week.