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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—CooperativesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Pursuant to Standing Order 85, it is my duty to inform hon. members that an amendment to an opposition motion may be moved only with the consent of the sponsor of the motion. I therefore ask the hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier whether he consents to this amendment being moved.

The hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier.

Opposition Motion—CooperativesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, during my speech, I mentioned the reasons for my answer.

The committee will be called upon to consider issues of housing, child care, health, agriculture and finance, and not only industry. A bill in this House, a report from the Auditor General or private members bills could interrupt the work of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. The work cannot, therefore, be guaranteed. It is for this reason, and because of the complexity and the need to not interrupt proceedings, that I cannot accept the proposed amendment.

Opposition Motion—CooperativesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

There is no consent. Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 85 the amendment cannot be moved at this time.

Opposition Motion—CooperativesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from the industry committee and also for the proposition of having the industry committee being part of the committee that would be dealing with co-operatives.

Upon hearing the announcement of the cuts to the co-operative development initiative program that was providing funding for the Rural and Co-operatives Secretariat, as well as other related funding that was cut in the recent budget, Denyse Guy, executive director of the Canadian Co-operative Association, said:

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--just over $4 million a year--and made a difference in hundreds of communities across the country.

I would like to hear his comments on why the budget cuts for these very meaningful programs that helped co-operatives in all regions of Canada.

Opposition Motion—CooperativesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, perhaps, as members of industry committee, we will get a chance to work on this issue in the future.

In regard to the specific question, as the member knows the Government of Canada delivered the economic action plan on March 29 to bolster Canada's fundamental strengths and address the important challenges confronting the economy over the long term, including a significant reduction to the deficit.

Over the past year, the government has conducted a comprehensive review of direct program spending by federal departments and agencies and identified a number of opportunities to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations, programs and services for Canadians.

When we look at the government's record, 750,000 net new jobs have been created in the Canadian economy since July 2009, a record that is the envy of the world.

As a government, we want to get our budget balanced within the short term so we can ensure the strength of the Canadian economy in the long term.

Opposition Motion—CooperativesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal 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—CooperativesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative 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—CooperativesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal 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—CooperativesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative 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—CooperativesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative 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—CooperativesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative 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—CooperativesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2012 / 4:35 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green 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—CooperativesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative 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—CooperativesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP 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—CooperativesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Conservative 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—CooperativesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP 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—CooperativesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP 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—CooperativesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP 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—CooperativesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal 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—CooperativesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP 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.

Opposition Motion—CooperativesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her great words about the co-operative movement, whether it be credit unions, co-ops in the agriculture sector, or housing.

It reminds me of a family that came here in the early 1960s to work in the shipyards of this great country. The family wanted to buy a house. The parents went to the bank to borrow money. It was a household where one of the parents had worked for a couple of years and had a work history in this country, albeit a short one, because the family had only been here about two years. The parents wanted to buy a house. That house was worth $15,000. Today $15,000 would not get anyone a garage, never mind a house. The family was looking to put down roots. The parents had the ability to pay the mortgage and had a small down payment. They wanted to settle in the community and provide a home for their children.

Those parents went from bank to bank asking for a loan and they were denied every single solitary time, even though there was a work history and an income stream. The head of the family, who was a man, was working in the auto sector at GM and was one of the highest paid factory workers in the Niagara region at the time. He was a skilled tradesperson making a very good wage and working overtime. One day while that man was at work, a gentleman came around and asked him if he would like to be a member of the credit union. The man said it sounded great to him. He had come from a place where the co-op movement was very successful. It was an enlightened movement which a lot of folks participated in, whether it was the co-operative store where people bought their groceries or other co-operative movements to which the man had belonged.

The gentleman signed him up to the credit union and said if the man needed anything, he should come to see him. The man said he wanted to get a mortgage so he could buy a house for his family. In those days that gentlemen would have been called the credit union man. Credit union men signed people up at their places of work. The credit union man would be someone people worked with. The credit union men were workmates of the people who were asked if they would like to join and be part of the co-operative movement.

The man looking for the loan said yes. The credit union man said he would make sure he got an appointment to apply for a mortgage. The man and his wife went to the credit union, asked for a mortgage to buy a small home and the credit union said yes.

Who were those folks? They were my father and mother. They lived in 12 different places. They rented place after place after place and dragged five kids behind them, because they could not find a place to live and the banks would not give them a mortgage, but the credit union would. My father to his dying day said to trust the credit union and the co-operative movement and be leery of the banks. I was then and I am now.

It is not to say that I do not have a bank account. I do, but I have done most of my life's financial work--if I can call it work; it is usually debt when one has children, a mortgage and car loans. Nonetheless, I belong to the credit union. It is a great institution that is going to lose the ability to do that great work because of such a shortsighted government. One would think the government was being asked for hundreds of millions of dollars, when indeed it is a pittance.

I wrote a letter to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food about the CDI. I asked why the government was not going to fund it. Let me read from the minister's response. It stated, “To address the need to reduce the federal deficit, over the past year the Government conducted a comprehensive”--comprehensive, the minister said--“review of direct program spending by federal departments and agencies. As a result...the Co-operative Development Initiative is being discontinued”. That letter to me was signed by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

What comprehensive review? We are actually now being asked to do a comprehensive review of the CDI. I have to thank my colleagues in the Liberal Party for doing that.

I congratulate the member for Malpeque for standing up for co-ops. I know they play an important role in Prince Edward Island and in rural parts right across this great country. When we go to the rural parts of this country, which I know my friend from Malpeque has done, as I have done, when we go to Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta, to the northern parts of this country, whether it be in Ontario or in Quebec, and look at what institutions are in those small towns, it is the co-operatives, not the big banks. In the case of a financial institution, it is usually a small credit union. There might be only a couple of folks looking after the place, but I will guarantee that when people walk through that door, they will ask how they are doing and call them by their first name. It is about that connectedness to community.

When people are members of a co-operative, whether it be a credit union, co-operative housing, or whatever it happens to be, they own it. It is not owned by some board members and shareholders somewhere who are looking to extract profit after profit. The profit comes back to the members. What I think is the remarkable thing about co-ops is that the members get to decide what to do with it. They can get the share value back, which happens with many credit unions, or they can reinvest it, as in co-op housing. With co-op housing, if the members decide they need to fix something, they collectively come together and make a decision. There is no one outside who is worried about making an additional five bucks off the backs of folks. They can take that extra $5 and decide to do something with it, which would probably help a lot more folks than just someone putting it in his pocket.

What a remarkable thing. It is absolutely fascinating that folks would want to come together to help one another. Imagine that. We do not hear much of that from the other side. It is a dog-eat-dog world on the other side, it seems, instead of this sense of collectivism.

When we look at collective attributes across this country, one need look no further than the Canadian Wheat Board. What did we see the other side do? The government axed it.

I find it hugely ironic that in the very year which the UN has declared is the International Year of Cooperatives, the minister thinks it is a wonderful thing, makes a great proclamation, makes a nice speech about it, and his very first act around the co-operative movement is to take away the money that helps build it. The minister may want to think about whether he wants to retract what he said about the co-operative movement in the International Year of Cooperatives. Clearly, actions speak louder than words, as one is told. If the action is that the government is going to de-fund it, then perhaps the words were meaningless.

When we look at the co-operative movement, we have to ask ourselves, do we really believe in entrepreneurs? Are entrepreneurs individuals working only on behalf of themselves or their families, perhaps, if we want to use that model? Or can entrepreneurs come together as a collective group and actually work on behalf of each other so that they all benefit?

I would argue they can. I would argue that entrepreneurs are not always single-minded in the sense that they want only themselves to get ahead, through their efforts, whatever those efforts happen to be, whatever endeavour they may take up. In the co-operative movement, there are folks who come together who are entrepreneurial in spirit and in how they want to do things and run a business, but they want to do it as a collective and are happy to share the rewards with others who come together with them to work.

One should celebrate that. One should look at that and see it as another model for economic development. It is important to this country and has a uniqueness in rural Canada that has not gone away. It has taken its lumps and bumps along the way. We have seen a lot of things in rural Canada, in northern Canada and out west on the Prairies. We have seen the demise of some, but we have also seen the growth of many others.

My colleague mentioned some numbers. In this country, there are 18 million members who belong to co-operatives. Nine thousand co-operatives are in housing. Some 2,200 housing co-operatives are home to about 250,000 individuals. There are 1,300 agricultural co-ops.

We talk a lot about agriculture in this House and it seems to me it is a movement that is critical for agriculture producers. Many agriculture producers I have spoken to on the Prairies greatly appreciate those co-operatives. It seems to me that the government ought to rethink. Perhaps we will get a recommendation if we do pass this motion, and I hope we do because we certainly support it. If the committee comes up with a suggestion to reinstate the funding, I would suggest to my colleagues across the way that maybe that is what they ought to do, at least for those in the agriculture sector, where 1,300 agriculture co-operatives do great work on behalf of farmers and those communities.

I encourage the other side to support this motion. Let us get a committee to consider this matter. We would like to see some other things done. Let us see if we cannot restore the funding and the momentum for co-operatives across this country. Let us show them that we believe in them and that we want to help them build because they are important to our communities and to individuals.

Opposition Motion—CooperativesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the member for Welland has travelled widely in western Canada and knows how important the pool movement was in western Canada. At one time farmers actually owned all the elevator infrastructure in western Canada with no debt. Those elevators were part of the community. For whatever reason, that has all been lost now and there are none of those pools left. Worse yet, the last protection that grain producers had in western Canada was the Canadian Wheat Board and the authority for it to work effectively has been taken away by the Government of Canada.

The co-op movement in the west came out strenuously against the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food in his move to do away with the Canadian Wheat Board. We know the Government of Canada attacks charities that go against the government. The government has done away with KAIROS.

Does the member for Welland think there is any possibility that having CDI under the minister's department, there is a sense of vindictiveness here? Does he think it is a matter of getting even with the co-op movement for having spoken against him, regardless of the consequences in rural communities?

Opposition Motion—CooperativesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Malpeque for the work he has done on behalf of farmers. We sat together on the agriculture committee in the last Parliament.

He is correct when it comes to the sense of a collective, where folks want to work together for something, as they did with the Canadian Wheat Board. As I have said many times in this House, it was for those who belonged to the Canadian Wheat Board to decide whether they wanted it to continue, and the government abrogated their right. They should have been allowed to decide whether they wanted to keep it and then we would abide by their decision as it was in the act, rather than simply change the act.

It seems the government takes a dim view to any sort of collective movement and does not like it. I would say to the Conservatives that there is no shame in being part of a collective because it is of one's free will to belong. If that is my choice, I ought to be allowed. There ought not to be impediments. It is my choice to be part of that free association of a collective movement. The government ought to stay out of my way and allow me to do that, not throw up roadblocks, not be detrimental in its attitude toward—

Opposition Motion—CooperativesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order. I do not wish to interrupt the member, but the time is limited and there are other members who wish to pose questions.

Opposition Motion—CooperativesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank both my colleagues for their very eloquent speeches.

I would like to come back to the deplorable attitude of the Conservatives who are making these cuts, even while we are celebrating the International Year of Co-operatives.

Is this merely a case of a case of laziness or, as we have seen on a number of occasions on different issues, simple favouritism for private enterprise as a whole, as opposed to the interests of the co-operative movement for ordinary Canadians?