Thanks. No, we do not use names here. We use only the member for Saint John. I am learning, Mr. Speaker.
The principles of the 1970 Canada Cooperatives Association Act were based on provincial legislation dating back to the early 20th century. While the provinces have been constantly updating their co-operative acts, as provinces normally are ahead of the federal government, it is about time the federal government caught up.
I commented and complimented the government on bringing this legislation forward and I continue to do so, but I should also say that it was done through the co-operation of the Canadian Cooperatives Association. It was the co-operatives themselves who wanted to bring forward legislation that was going to allow them to compete.
I think it rather interesting and rather appropriate that national co-op week was held October 12 to October 18. Members were not in the House during that period, which is unfortunate. The theme of national co-op week this year was co-operation now more than ever. I believe sincerely that theme in itself speaks also to the legislation.
The legislation allows a number of things. First and foremost, it allows the ability to capitalize in a different fashion from what they have been allowed to do in the past. They now have the ability to go public, to sell shares in corporations, which they never had before. It allows them to capitalize so they can expand and put more assets back into the co-operative.
The legislation requires two-thirds or more of the membership to make changes to a co-operative. That is very important. You must be flexible in today's global economy to be able to deal with the issues that are going to face the co-operatives not only now but in the future.
There is one minor issue that we will be able to discuss at committee, members' dissenting rights. I will not get into the detail now but there are some obvious issues that have to be dealt with in terms of dissenting rights. The question is not whether members should have the ability to dissent, because they should. They are members of a co-operative and have every right to do so. The legislation speaks to a timeframe, and that timeframe is a period of five years to pay out dissenters of their equity in the co-op.
A lot of co-ops want to merge, which they did not have the ability to do under the old legislation. Now I am sure they would like to in order to compete with the major corporate structure. In dissenting rights I think timeframe has to be dealt with. It has to be talked out in committee and perhaps an extension of the timeframe could be arranged. Instead of five years perhaps there could be an extension of years so co-ops will not be dealt with adversely if they have dissenters.
The bill attempts to balance member rights with corporate directorate. It also allows the directors now on the co-ops to have a 20% non-membership make-up, which again is very important to bring in new ideas, new people and new capital to the co-op systems.
It provides for alternate dispute resolution assistance from the federal government with regard to grievances between co-operatives and their members. Again, it is very positive to have that dispute settling mechanism.
Bill C-5 makes changes to the rules governing a corporation. It permits co-operatives to incorporate provided they operate on a co-operative basis, again very positive.
Bill C-5 introduced the concept of natural persons when describing co-operatives. As a result they are awarded the same rights and privileges as natural persons. This is instead of detailing the various rights, powers, privileges individually. It also is in keeping with the same rights now awarded to business corporations and mirrors the powers some province already offer co-operatives, a harmonization of legislation from provinces to the federal government.
Bill C-5 makes changes to the rules governing the issue of shares, which is very important. The conditions of issuing membership shares are set out in the corporation charter. Bill C-5 will permit co-operatives with share capital to issue investment shares to their members and to the public. This is provided the members have agreed to do so and have set out the rules in the charter bylaws. Traditionally co-ops have looked only to their members to finance their operations. This is probably the most important aspect of the legislation that has been put forward. It is very positive.
The government along with the Canadian Cooperatives Association has put forward an excellent piece of legislation. It is important that we do allow co-operatives, people working with people in order to make it better for co-operatives, to compete in today's global economy and global society.
When I arrived here I wanted to be positive about positive legislation. I did not talk about CPP or OAS. I do not plan on doing that right now. I congratulate the government. We will be supporting this piece of legislation. Not only does it help co-operatives but it helps Canadians where they live and where they work.