House of Commons Hansard #139 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was co-operatives.


Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

February 13th, 2017 / 11:05 a.m.


Alexandra Mendes Liberal Brossard—Saint-Lambert, QC


That, in the opinion of the House, the government should recognize the important role co-operatives play in the economy and ensure that they continue to thrive by taking concrete steps such as: (a) developing, in consultation with provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous communities and the co-operative sector, a federal co-operative strategy to promote and support Canada’s co-operative sector; and (b) providing periodic progress reports on pre-established goals and targets.

Mr. Speaker, hon. colleagues, I would like to first thank my colleague, the hon. member for St. John's East, for seconding this motion.

The purpose of Motion No. 100, entitled “Role of Co-operatives”, is to develop and implement a strategy to promote and support Canada's co-operative sector.

Some may wonder why I came up with this motion and moved it. I am very pleased to have the next few minutes to explain. I moved this motion because the growth and success of the co-operative and mutual sector align perfectly with our government's objectives. These objectives will strengthen our country and invigorate and diversify our economy through the creation of long-term, well-paid, high-calibre jobs. This motion will generate competition by lowering the cost of goods and services and giving consumers better choices.

It is an all-around win.

The government and I believe that when we have an economy that works for the middle class, we have a country that works for everyone. In many cases, co-operatives are better than conventional businesses at creating an environment that strengthens the middle class and those working hard to join it.

These are the reasons I am here today to debate and defend this motion.

It is my belief and that of many of my colleagues that the Government of Canada must continue to recognize the important role that co-operatives and mutuals play in the Canadian economy and ensure that the sector continues to thrive. There have been some efforts to recognize that today's co-operative sector is as diverse and innovative as the economy itself. However, these efforts have not been sufficient.

Historically, co-operatives have been associated with agriculture and agrifood; whereas today, co-operatives have evolved as an innovative model in almost every sector of Canadian and global economies. In 2013, responsibility for co-operatives moved from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to Industry Canada. It was a move that was meant to reflect how the co-op model has grown, and that also began to consider co-operatives as equal to sole proprietorships, partnerships, and corporations. This represents modest progress in the way that co-operatives and the co-operative model must be supported by the government.

That said, this change did not include a mandate to provide coordination and co-operation between government departments and other levels of government or with the co-operative sector itself. This also means that the department cannot implement any policies that would have a positive impact on the development of co-operatives, address deficiencies in our economy and, ultimately, benefit Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

This government has ambitious plans to grow our economy, help the middle class, and support those working hard to join it. Industry Canada has been renamed and reorganized. Now called Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, the department is focused on its ambitious innovation agenda, which will help achieve the objectives of the government. Co-operatives and mutuals have a role to play in that agenda, and adopting Motion No. 100 is a crucial step in ensuring that they are an integral part of that strategy.

Co-operatives are inherently innovative. They are created in order to meet people's needs and to serve the people, first and foremost. In my riding, Brossard—Saint-Lambert, we have excellent co-ops that offer vital services with a real focus on customer service.

For instance, Coop Aide Rive-Sud, an in-home support co-operative, provides a range of services including housekeeping, meal preparation, errands, laundry, and hairdressing. The co-op's membership has grown steadily since 1997, and so has the number of jobs created for the worker members, who are all employees of the co-operative.

The user members rely on the dedicated work of over 130 worker members who are proud of being instrumental in bettering quality of life at home. Of course, home care is a growing challenge in Canada, and co-operatives are a sustainable model for client-focussed service.

Another inspiring example of innovation through a co-operative model is La Guilde co-operative in Montreal, formed two years ago. It is a collective of 72 video games programming boutiques that have grouped together to scale up to compete in a global video game market.

Based on a democratic structure and built on a model of non-profit producing co-operatives, La Guilde has equipped itself to respond in a sustainable way to the real needs of independent game developers in Montreal. Using the concept of shared services, these independent, creative students are now a stable sustainable ecosystem that can build out into an expanding global industry and compete with established giants such as Ubisoft.

By implementing a framework to promote the development of co-operatives and mutuals in Canada and by fully exploring a strategy on how co-operatives can participate in the growth of every region and every emerging sector, we can maximize the positive spinoffs from the co-operative model in Canada.

Quebec has felt the impact that co-operatives can have on local economies. In the 1970s, Quebec had the highest funeral costs in Canada. In order to address this issue, people organized themselves under the co-operative model and, in the decades that followed, Quebec became the province with the lowest priced funeral services, services that constitute an emotional and financial burden for most Canadian families.

In its report, the Special Committee on Co-operatives, chaired by our late colleague, the Hon. Mauril Bélanger, quotes a brief submitted by the Institut de recherche et d'éducation pour les coopératives et les mutuelles of the Université de Sherbrooke. It reads:

...the presence of funeral cooperatives in Quebec for nearly three decades has had and continues to have a regulating effect by lowering the price of funerals in Quebec by 50%....

Many national co-operative success stories would not exist today without the strategic partnership and initiative of the federal government of the time.

More than 50 years ago, Arctic Co-operatives Ltd. began commercializing arts and craft production for harvesting and commercial fisheries. These traditional activities became the core business of the early local co-operatives, which would become a network of 32 community-owned co-ops, providing northern peoples with fuel, tourism, food, and employment. Arctic Co-ops is now a successful and internationally recognized example of do-it-yourself community economic development in the Canadian north. As of 2012, Arctic Co-ops ranked 24th in Canada among non-financial co-ops, based on total revenues. This success was partially the result of federal encouragement and support. There are many examples of successful models, domestically and internationally, that offer strategic possibilities to fill economic gaps and meet social needs in Canada.

This debate is an opportunity to draw the attention to what a national co-operative development strategy might provide for Canadians from all walks of life: rural or urban, first nations and Métis, young entrepreneurs, official language minority communities, the growing freelance sector, and new Canadians. Co-operatives offer a point of entry and participation in the innovation economy.

The co-operative movement is a global one, and offers countless examples of innovative and stable economic development that we must learn from. Canada has not been quite as successful as comparable economies in developing the co-operative and mutual sector for our own domestic benefit. We rank 31st in percentage of GDP generated by our co-operative and mutual sector. In a country where 18 million people are members of a co-operative or mutual, half of the population, and 3.4% of our GDP is attributable to co-operatives, we can do more, and we can certainly do better.

Consider for example countries such as New Zealand, the Netherlands, and France. It is important to note that these countries have returned to the co-operative model in recent years, specifically in the renewable energy, health care, and entrepreneurial co-operative sectors, thus allowing professionals to share their resources while remaining independent.

With this motion, I am continuing the work begun by the Hon. Mauril Bélanger, which deserves all of our respect since the special committee's report was written in a completely co-operative manner. If Motion No. 100 is adopted, it will give the government the mandate to develop a framework and strategy for co-operative development. This mandate is the catalyst needed for the government to act on the recommendations made by the Special Committee on Co-operatives, launched by Mauril about five years ago during the International Year of Co-operatives.

It has already been five years. I hope members will all agree with me that it is time to move forward with recommendations to draft a plan, create a framework, and find a way forward.

This motion builds on the work that has already been done. The wording of Motion M-100 is clear. If the motion is adopted, support from the House of Commons for developing a strategy to enhance the co-operative economy in Canada will be solidly established.

Mauril often said that co-operatives, especially those that are starting up, face tremendous challenges getting financing and that the federal government has a role to play in helping them. That is precisely what this motion seeks to address.

I want to be clear on certain aspects of the motion. Motion M-100 seeks to directly help small- and medium-sized co-operatives that might be stalled or experiencing very slow growth. It does not seek to help the very large co-operatives such as Desjardins, La Coop fédérée, Federated Co-operatives Limited, and Agropur, for example. Those co-operatives are strong enough to succeed as businesses and do not require additional support.

Small and medium-sized co-ops, on the other hand, face challenges that regular businesses do not. Access to capital, the lack of a legal framework, and the dismal availability of data and statistics are just a few examples. Who in a co-operative, with many involved member-owners, would take out a loan or mortgage on behalf of the whole co-operative? Which banking institution would lend to a co-operative where it is unclear who will be responsible in the case of the co-operative defaulting?

Currently, data and accessibility to statistics on co-ops are unreliable and incomplete. Centralizing the data would be a tangible step to help co-op leaders make sound decisions. The most recent studies and research posted under “Co-operatives policy” on the government site are not current. In fact, the most recent study dates from 2012, but there is nothing after that.

While I will not go into detailed proposed solutions, I will share a few of them today as possibilities to consider. The first one would be to develop a co-operative investment strategy. Second would be to ensure equitable access to funding for co-operatives. Third would be to establish a legislative framework to enable financial and non-financial co-operatives to do business and grow the sector, and there are many more.

As my time is coming to a close, I strongly encourage my colleagues from both parties to vote in favour of strengthening the co-operative and mutual sector.

Motion No. 100 could give the Department of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development the mandate needed to fully explore the opportunities and synergies that a stable and locally based co-operative economy could create in all parts of Canada.

Parliamentarians are elected by Canadians to meet our collective needs. Co-operatives and mutuals are never imposed on communities. They become established to meet common needs and are democratically responsible to their members. It is the responsibility of all members from all parties to give the public service a strong mandate so that this strategy can take shape and become a reality.

Mr. Speaker and esteemed colleagues, thank you for listening to me. I look forward to working with you to help boost our economy, increase competitiveness, and create jobs.

Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Brossard—Saint-Lambert for putting forward the motion. I am a bit confused in terms of the motion itself. Co-operatives, from coast to coast to coast, deal with farmers, traders, and producers. Indeed, we have seen co-operatives involved in insurance, financial institutions, credit unions, and housing. We have affordable and social housing co-operatives as well. In western Canada, we have retail. In doing some quick research, there is also a record label involved as a co-operative. The Canadian Press is listed as a co-operative. We have radio stations, and even a refinery that is listed as a co-operative. Co-operatives are successful because they are masters of their own domain. They are in charge of moving forward. They are together to look after the producers and those who have subscribed to them.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague the scope and who she sees would be involved in this, and why is there a need for a centralized overseeing group to manage our national co-operative program?

Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Alexandra Mendes Liberal Brossard—Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are working with the co-operative movement to create this strategy. There is a need to standardize our rules and regulations around co-operatives. We will not touch the financial sector because that is under finance and it will remain there. However, there lacks a clear path for the support that co-operatives need in terms of the legal and financial framework they work with. I am working with them to bring this motion forward. I am not working against co-operatives in any way, shape, or form.

Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wholeheartedly support the co-operative model.

My family has worked for years to develop this model in Abitibi. It is a very useful way to help one another, especially at times when the economy is not stable or uncertain.

In my riding, there are many housing co-operatives. The largest housing co-operative is located in Pierrefonds, a suburb of Montreal.

Co-operative housing agreements are expiring now. In the spirit of this motion, does the government intend to renew the housing subsidy that helps people living in co-operatives so that they do not spend more than 30% of their income on housing?

Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Alexandra Mendes Liberal Brossard—Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I cannot speak on the minister's behalf. I am not aware of any upcoming policy announcements.

However, I do know that he is conducting very broad consultations on affordable housing. We certainly think the co-operative model has a lot to recommend it. Like the member, I hope those agreements will be renewed soon.

Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Karen Ludwig Liberal New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, could the member elaborate on how the renewable energy sector would thrive under a co-operative environment?

Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Alexandra Mendes Liberal Brossard—Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I firmly believe that the co-operative model is extremely capable of reacting quickly to the needs in communities and creating an economic development framework that would sustain, for example, the renewable energy sector.

Right now, many of our communities are debating how to address all the climate change challenges that they are facing. There are examples in waste management that have been created through co-operatives that address the climate change issues very directly and quickly. That is one example, but there are many others that could be looked at.

Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a welcome opportunity to speak to this motion today. I would like to commend the member for Brossard—Saint-Lambert for putting this motion forward.

I would like to take a few moments today to explain exactly why I think this is such an important motion. In particular, I would like to focus on credit unions.

In our Conservative caucus we have a wide variety of backgrounds. To my left we have a former president and chair of a large credit union. We obviously have farmers. We have business men and women who have conducted a large amount of work in business with credit unions. I would like to focus on that end of the cooperative sphere today.

In my riding of Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, and in my former riding of Okanagan—Coquihalla as well, credit unions are often the financial cornerstone of the region. For many of my constituents, it was a community credit union that said yes to their first mortgage, to their first small business loan, to a line of credit, when some of the larger financial institutions that have international presence said, “And you are?” Now, I do not mean to suggest anything negative against Canada's larger financial institutions which are part of the cornerstone of what many feel is one of the best banking systems in the world, but the fact is, to many of my constituents, they got their first start, their first financial start so to speak, because a credit union said yes to them.

Even as I wrote this speech last Friday night, news had just spread that Valley First, which is division of First West Credit Union, donated $150,000 toward the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation. This is the same credit union that sponsors many important local community events.

In Summerland, there is a credit union that sponsors many other local events and is considered to be one of the best run credit unions in all of British Columbia. It is all of one, a single branch, but for the people in Summerland, it has been their financial and fiscal lifeline. It has helped finance the growth of Summerland since it was first founded in 1944. In fact, it is a remarkable story. Back in 1944, the Summerland & District Credit Union was founded when 10 local citizens pooled together less than $20, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Why am I raising credit unions today in speaking in support of this motion?

The short, simple answer is that credit unions need our help. They are not asking for a zero interest loan like our friends at Bombardier. The reality is that credit unions are drowning. They are drowning in regulatory red tape and one-size-fits-all Ottawa-imposed regulation. For starters, I am sure members would know that common reporting standards and FINTRAC alone are creating massive compliance costs on credit unions. One small credit union alone told me it spends $100,000 a year on compliance costs. To a large financial institution, $100,000 is probably a drop in the advertising bucket, but for a small community credit union, it means it is literally hiring people not to serve customers but rather to serve Ottawa in filling out the required paperwork. It is a massive burden.

Now the Liberal government comes along and says it is going to change mortgage regulations. Keep in mind, I am not talking about the new stress tests. I am talking about the punitive and unilateral decision to take away CMHC insurance on refinanced mortgages.

Canadians are a savvy bunch. We understand that accessing our home equity through a refinanced mortgage is absolutely the most cost-effective way to invest in a small business, to finance home renovations, to consolidate debt, to survive a long labour lockout, to keep a family home after a divorce. Whatever the case may be, refinancing a mortgage is a cost-effective way to invest in a local economy and now, with zero consultation, the Liberal government has taken that away.

What this means is small credit unions will have to allocate more funds to cover those mortgages. In turn, it means that money will not be available to flow into other sectors of the local community lending portfolio. In turn, it means that interest rates will need to be higher.

All of this drives up costs on a credit union and ultimately its members. This is why credit unions are so greatly troubled by many of the measures that the Liberal government has put forward.

In fact, going back to the mortgages, we heard every single witness at the finance committee, including the witnesses put forward by the Liberals, agree that these would have significant negative impacts on the industry and ultimately on Canadians. They also agreed there was zero consultation on why the Liberals are adamant on implementing these punitive changes.

We had bureaucrats at the finance committee and while they could explain what the policy changes were, none of them could explain why the Liberal government wants to make these changes. I will even credit a few of my Liberal colleagues on the finance committee. When I put forward a motion to invite the finance minister so he could explain why he thinks these changes are good, they agreed with me and supported the motion. For those people less familiar with how the finance committee works, it is not every day that members of the government will agree to bring their own minister before the committee to explain himself.

That brings me back to this motion. I could continue at length on the important roles credit unions play in my riding and indeed in many ridings throughout Canada, which is why I am pleased to support the motion. I can also state that since I have assumed the portfolio of deputy finance critic, I have also heard at length from credit unions on very serious struggles they are facing, all trying to keep up with Ottawa's imposed one-size-fits-all regulatory compliance-related red tape. If we are to support this motion, and I am hopeful that all parties and all members will support this motion, then by extension we must do more to recognize the value of co-operatives. We must ensure that we listen and make the much-needed regulatory changes. These changes would not cost the taxpayer money, but they would help keep a more robust, more diverse, and more competitive fiscal sector in Canada, which is what we all believe needs to happen toward prosperity.

Before I close, I would like to briefly quote from Desjardins Group which made a presentation at the finance committee. Mr. Bernard Brun said it best when he said that the rest of the country's “financial co-operatives are an important and integral part of the Canadian financial system and that the rules need to be adapted accordingly.” I could not agree more. That is why I am speaking in support of this motion today, and I do appreciate members' time to hear my comments.

Again, I would like to thank the member for Brossard—Saint-Lambert for putting this motion forward. I believe it is a helpful reminder that we must be thinking of our local communities when we are in this place, and not necessarily allow the dictates of the politics of today to push us in a certain direction. All good things in life are upstream, and I appreciate the member's suggestion that this is one way we can make things better for co-operatives, including credit unions, right across this great country.

Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to start by saying that I cannot imagine any member of Parliament opposing this morning's motion, particularly if that member is from Quebec.

I will not claim that co-operatives were our brainchild and ours alone, but allow me to indulge in some nationalistic pride and say that Quebec has a significantly higher percentage of co-operative enterprises than any other province or territory in every sector across the board.

One well-known example is, of course, Desjardins, but within that model, I would like to draw the House's attention to what we call the school savings bank. From the time they start school, our children can deposit money in the school savings bank. This is their introduction to the co-operative model and that whole sector of the economy. In my day, kids could even deposit pennies. Every deposit, no matter how small, contributed to kids' financial literacy.

At the other end of the spectrum, many funeral co-operatives have sprung up in recent years. This means that the co-operative movement follows us from the cradle to the grave, so to speak, and in all sectors of the economy. There are university co-operatives, agricultural co-operatives, and health co-operatives. Basically, in every economic sector of our society, there is room for a co-operative economy.

This is particularly true in the social economy. We have an obligation to show solidarity and develop many, many co-op-based institutions. There is really no good reason to oppose this motion.

However, I do have one small reservation. Members who have been here for more than two elections will recall very clearly the tremendous amount of work Mauril Bélanger did on this file. I would also like to remind members of the huge amount of work done by one of our NDP colleagues during the 41st Parliament. Hélène LeBlanc worked very hard to advance the co-operative movement.

My only reservation is that we are debating a motion here today rather than any concrete application in legislation, such as the budget bill, for example, which will be introduced soon.

Let us look at the motion: the text of the motion recommends that the government recognize the important role co-operatives play in our economy and ensure that they continue to thrive. It would be hard to be against that. To achieve this goal, the motion calls on the federal government to develop a co-operative strategy with all the provincial and territorial partners. Finally, the motion proposes that the federal government provide periodic progress reports on goals and targets reached. It would hard to go against these principles. We would just like to see the machine speed up a bit.

Although I support the principle behind the motion, the recommendations are so vague and, as I was saying, so imprecise and repetitive that any tangible impact they might have will result only from the Liberal government's political will. Let us hope the will is there. I have no doubt about the substance of the motion, but as for the schedule, that remains to be seen. We will ensure that the Liberal government effectively keeps this promise.

For those watching our debates, let us reiterate that co-operatives are organizations where a member is both owner and client. Other than their sector, co-operatives have many things in common, including the democratic power of their members and their heavy involvement in their community. Co-operatives also share other commonalities with the NDP. In fact, the fundamental values of the co-operative movement are similar to those that define our policies, namely to work together to build equity between citizens and establish mutual trust.

The NDP has always advocated for co-operatives because they are resilient in times of economic crisis. Co-operatives are resilient because their business decisions are directly tied to their economic and social impact on the community in which they are based.

According to a study by Quebec's former economic development, innovation, and exports department, the survival rate of co-operatives is almost double that of conventional businesses.

I will read a quote by Bryan Inglis, vice-president of Co-op Atlantic’s Agriculture Division:

Due to these economic realities, we believe that cooperatives can play an important and strategic role. Given that cooperatives are enterprises that seek to meet member and community needs, which can be both economic and social, they're ideally positioned to meet the needs of both rural and urban communities. When conditions worsen, citizens look for opportunities to work together to come up with workable solutions.

Co-operatives are also vital to job creation. In Quebec, between 2000 and 2010, jobs in the co-operative sector increased by 25%, while jobs in the overall economy increased by less than 10%.

The co-operative movement also generates thousands of jobs across Canada. Over 155,000 people actively participate in this movement.

What is more, it is important to note that co-operatives are often great financial successes. According to a federal government study, non-financial co-operatives reported a total volume of business of $39.6 billion in 2012, which is an increase of 3% compared to 2011.

It is not just a small number of shareholders who reap the benefits of the co-operative movement's success. It is the communities being served by co-operatives.

As I was saying earlier, Quebec is seen as a champion of the co-operative movement, and I am proud to be part of it. There is no doubt that the co-operative movement has shaped our history. More than 20 years ago, the Quebec government established a co-operative investment plan that has helped many co-operatives get off the ground and flourish.

This political will has generated $393 million in new investments in co-operatives. Today, more than one million Quebeckers are members of a co-operative, and this sector employs more than 43,000 people. One in eight Quebeckers directly participates in the development of the co-operative sector.

When it comes to Quebec co-operatives, Mouvement Desjardins stands out, although, as I mentioned earlier, the co-operative movement is now active in all economic sectors. In Quebec, 70% of the population is a member of a Caisse populaire Desjardins and that includes me.

The Mouvement Desjardins was founded in 1900 by Alphonse Desjardins. At the time, traditional banks only lent money to business people, industrialists, and wealthy families. The working class only had access to loan sharks, which charged prohibitive interest rates. To address this injustice, Alphonse Desjardins created a system where the working class became its own banker. Mouvement Desjardins has been acknowledged as a major builder of Quebec's economy.

Although co-operatives play a vital role in the economy, the federal government has shown little interest in them since the 2010 forum on co-operatives. I find it interesting that the motion calls on the federal government to recognize the important role co-operatives play, as though that were not yet proven. What the co-operative movement needs is concrete measures to help it sustain its growth and keep providing services to communities.

That is why the NDP is demanding that the federal government implement tax advantages to help co-operatives thrive. That is a meaningful measure that could be introduced as early as the next budget. It is in keeping with the premise of the motion, but it goes further still.

For such measures to be as effective as possible, the Liberal government should also improve access to information about co-operatives across the country. Once the federal government has properly identified the needs, it will be able to target them better.

In conclusion, I would like to point out that, in the previous Parliament, the Liberal Party moved a motion calling for a special committee to study the importance of co-operatives. The committee's report, published in 2012, did a good job of proving their economic importance, and the Liberal Party issued a supplementary opinion, which I do not have time to quote, unfortunately.

To sum up, I will obviously be voting for the motion in the hope that we begin to see its impact as soon as possible with respect to certain bills.

Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to thank the member for Brossard—Saint-Lambert for bringing this important motion forward.

It is my pleasure to rise today as chair of the multi-party co-op caucus to highlight not only the economic benefits co-operatives provide but also the leadership on social issues and environmental challenges addressed by these innovative enterprises.

The economic impact of co-operatives and mutuals is clear. With approximately 9,000 co-operatives and mutuals employing almost 190,000 Canadians, the co-operative sector remains a key segment of the Canadian economy.

According to data collected by the Government of Canada in 2012, there are 8,000 non-financial co-operatives across Canada, with a total business volume of almost $40 billion. It is clearly time to develop, in consultation with provincial and territorial governments, indigenous peoples, the co-operative sector, and other governments, a federal and co-operative strategy to promote Canada's co-operative sector.

Co-ops exist in a number of sectors of the economy, including wholesale and retail, agriculture, housing, construction, manufacturing, and fishing and hunting, to name a few.

In 2012, Canada's co-operatives had almost eight million memberships and had paid out $607 million in dividends to their members and to their communities.

The co-operative model also places an emphasis on key values like democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity.

I am particularly proud to stand in support of the motion as Guelph is home to almost 100 co-operatives, many of them incorporated federally. These include the Co-operators, Gay Lea Foods, Organic Meadow, and the Guelph Campus Co-op, just to name a few.

The Co-operators is an excellent example of one of Guelph's leading businesses. It leads in economic activity, is one of Guelph's leading employers, and also leads in economic returns. At the same time, it champions social and environmental sustainability. The Co-operators is registered as a B Corporation and has led the way for many other Guelph companies to become B corps.

Another great example is Organic Meadow Co-op, first opened in 1989 by six organic farmers. They began their co-op to create a totally new food system that would deliver high-quality, certified organic, local food to consumers.

These organizations operate based on seven internationally established principles, including concern for community, and are global leaders in accomplishing U.N sustainability goals.

Whether generating economic opportunities for new Canadians or providing employment opportunities for people with disabilities, co-operatives are addressing a number of complex social challenges.

Perhaps nowhere is that social benefit more clear than in the area of affordable housing. According to a recently published study, more than 40%of all non-financial co-operatives operate in real estate, particularly as housing co-ops. It is estimated that some 2,300 housing co-operatives across the country provide more than 96,000 housing units. This represents 250,000 Canadians who currently live in co-operative homes.

Housing co-operatives, which can range from small buildings to large apartment complexes, are democratic communities where the residents decide how the co-ops operate. The mission of these co-operatives is simple: to help members find suitable and affordable housing. The cost of their housing only increases when operating costs increase, which ensures that low-income households living in co-ops continue to have access to affordable housing.

That is why budget 2016 introduced $574 million to renovate and undertake energy and water efficiency retrofits of the aging social housing stock, including co-operative housing. As of January 15, more than 48,000 social housing units in some 1,000 co-op and non-profit housing projects were slated to benefit from this funding.

It is clear that housing co-operatives play a central role in Canada.

I will now turn to another set of challenges the co-operative model is being used to address, which is the unique health and other social services needs that exist in our communities.

It is estimated that more than 500 co-operatives across the country provide tailored health services, day care, or home care. Health care co-ops can take a variety of forms, including those that are made up of health care providers, or patients and community, or a hybrid of the two. Whether providing home care to seniors and people with disabilities, or employment opportunities for people who experience barriers to employment, co-ops provide crucial health and social services.

I want to bring to the attention of members one such co-operative in Newfoundland. The North Shore Central Ambulance Co-operative provides ambulance services on the north shore of Trinity Bay. Through collective action and community ownership, this co-operative has been able to maintain high-quality ambulance services directly to the community.

The co-operative model also presents a unique economic development opportunity for new Canadians. Indeed, co-ops provide them with networks in their community, training opportunities related to business skills and leadership, and a variety of professional development opportunities. Co-operatives that achieve these goals operate in a variety of sectors and meet a variety of needs for newcomers, including education, health care, financial services, and the arts.

Renewable energy co-ops are another great example of Canadians using the flexibility of the co-op model to achieve shared environmental objectives. These businesses integrate co-op principles, such as democratic decision-making and collective outcomes, and direct them towards the creation of renewable energy. We have a few of those in my home town of Guelph, and they really are doing well.

While most of Canada's renewable energy co-ops are currently located in Ontario, it is a concept that is gaining popularity across the country due to its success. Therefore, I encourage all members of the House to support this motion.

I would like to thank my colleague for tabling the motion, which not only demonstrates the role co-operatives are playing in Canada's economy, but continues the work of our good friend, the late Mauril Bélanger, who was such a staunch advocate of the co-op movement, past chair of the caucus, and a champion for so many Canadians in so many ways.

I would love to see this motion move forward and have success for the benefit of our country.

Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Alex Nuttall Conservative Barrie—Springwater—Oro-Medonte, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address the House of Commons today on such an important matter.

I spent roughly six and a half years in the financial services sector. I had the opportunity to work both with TD and RBC as well as with Meridian Credit Union. The products and opportunities that are offered through the co-operative structure are a great help to consumers and provide competition, especially in the financial services sector, to what is mostly a closed industry.

I would like to thank the member for Brossard—Saint-Lambert for bringing forward the motion today. The issue needs to be addressed by the government and by the House going forward. It is an issue that past governments have seen as a very important one. Changes were made by the former finance minister, the late Jim Flaherty, with regard to the laws surrounding credit unions, allowing them to nationalize, allowing them to go cross-country, and not just be stuck in each province. Those changes were the seeds that are now sowing more competition in the financial sector.

Originally this was brought forward as a bill, but was retracted and brought forward as a non-binding motion. I question that. From where I sit, it looks like the government may have perhaps intervened, that perhaps it did not want to see this come forward as a binding bill on which it would need to act, and therefore wanted a non-binding motion instead that could be supported but pushed aside. This is not the approach the government promised us when it was sworn into power. It is not the approach that was communicated to us through the throne speech, on December 4, 2015.

I would like to take a couple of excerpts out of that speech to show what was communicated to us with respect to the expectations for members of Parliament, specifically backbench MPs, and how their opinions would matter.

Reading the speech, the Governor General said:

I call on all parliamentarians to work together, with a renewed spirit of innovation, openness and collaboration...In this Parliament, all members will be honoured, respected and heard, wherever they sit. For here, in these chambers, the voices of all Canadians matter.

Let us not forget, however, that Canadians have been clear and unambiguous in their desire for real change. Canadians want their government to do different things, and do things differently. They want to be able to trust their government.

The problem is this. We have an important matter before us that would have been a strong bill brought forward in the House by a backbench MP on the government side. However, it appears at this point that this was not in line with what the government wanted.

I commend the member for Brossard—Saint-Lambert for bringing forward this important issue. It speaks to competition in many sectors across the country. Co-operatives are spread across each and every sector. Unfortunately, with this being a non-binding motion on the government, it will not have the effect I would like. It speaks to the fact that nothing concrete is coming forward from the government with regard to economic development, or pushing industry down the road, or our economy, which has seen difficult times over the last year. We had some good numbers on Friday of last week, but besides that, we have seen poor job growth numbers.

We have been asking for a plan from the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, or what used to be Industry Canada. We have not seen anything but three bills.

The first bill dealt with copyrighted works for persons with disabilities. We supported that, and always will. However, it does not have a wide-ranging effect on the economy. It does not show the plan the government said it would bring forward.

The second bill was with regard to disclosure of boards and compliance. If a board was non-compliant regarding the number of persons and diversity on the board, it then needed to explain why.

Another bill was tabled just last week. It has yet to come to our innovation committee. However, as we move forward, we see a lack of a plan for the economy. When a member on the other side of the House brings forward a very strong motion, which I would rather see as a bill because it would be binding, I wonder why the government, or the member on the other side, did not proceed with a bill instead of something that would be non-binding motion. We are not seeing a plan for the economy going forward. The motion is actually a meaningful piece that could have provided help and support. We wish the minister would have taken it and worked with the member to ensure it was a binding policy that the government could take to the private sector and push very hard.

When I was at Meridian, there were times when we had a lot of influence over what happened in the economy. As a credit union, a co-operative, we were able to fill sectors that perhaps the banks could not. There were times when smaller businesses felt they could not compete, so they came together, worked together and through the process of creating a co-operative, they found savings in sourcing products and opportunities for selling their products. Co-operatives are very important, and I wish we had seen this in a full bill.

Going back to credit unions and co-operatives overall, there a number of financial co-operatives. When the previous government moved a motion to allow for co-operatives and credit unions to go to a national level, there was some concern about whether they would be able to compete with the high cost of doing so. Out east, the credit unions, with the provinces, came together and were able to put forward a larger bank and credit union co-operative. They provided savings to their members, as well as more products to them. Out west, Vancity and some other large credit unions looked at breaking out onto the national stage. In Ontario, my former employer, Meridian Credit Union, looked at a national perspective as well. There were talks of mergers, and all types of different opportunities. However, in the last year, a couple of them have taken that step onto the national stage. Some are looking at online banks and some are still looking at mergers.

This has created more competition in the financial services sector and it has forced the bigger players, the banks, to sharpen their pencils. At the end of the day, this increased competition has resulted in better products and rates for consumers, and an all around good move forward for Canada.

I would like to see the government take concrete steps. It should not just stop with a non-binding motion. It should encourage co-operatives and credit unions because they are saving dollars for consumers. They are creating jobs for Canadians, where we have seen abysmal job growth. They are creating a better, more stable economy going forward through this type of diversity.

It certainly has been an honour to speak about this today. I look forward to returning and being able to address this again in the future.

Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business


Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to talk about a very important issue.

The late Mauril Bélanger was a very strong advocate for co-ops in every region of our country. I remember many days, when Liberals were in opposition, when he raised the issue of Canada's co-operative movement and just how important co-ops were for our country. I do not believe anyone ever challenged that thought in my caucus back then and I suggest that, today, there is wonderful support by the government toward the co-operative movement as a whole. We understand and appreciate the valuable role that co-operatives play in everyday life for millions of Canadians, and it is done in many different ways.

Shortly after leaving the Canadian Forces, I got involved in the Weston Residents' Association. It wanted to impact housing in the community and initiated a housing co-op. Housing co-ops are just one of many forms of co-ops that exist, but it was an important one for community redevelopment. This is something that I believe is still viable today. There are many communities in virtually every region of our country that would benefit by housing co-ops getting more involved in community development, whether it is urban revitalization or just being involved in the suburbs, and we are seeing that today. It is important to recognize that.

If members are as familiar as I am with Winnipeg North, they will recognize the importance of credit unions' and co-operatives' financial services and food services. The Red River Co-op is one of the busiest gas stations in the north end, because my constituents recognize the value of co-ops in a very different and real way. That is one of the reasons, when reviewing this motion and reflecting on my good friend, the late Mauril Bélanger, one cannot help but get excited about the potential that co-ops will not only have in the future but some of the wonderful things they have done in the past.

The idea of a strategy is a positive one. How to best put it into effect is something, no doubt, the chamber will continue to discuss during the second hour of debate and look forward to the vote. Suffice it to say, I have had first-hand experience with co-ops and they have been wonderful experiences. My constituents tell me that co-ops and the co-operative movement are positive things. There are headquarters located in Winnipeg North. As I say, every day millions of Canadians benefit by the co-operative movement. I suspect that will continue to grow into the future and it is something that government should be able to foster and support.

With those few words, my time has expired for today, but I will have another opportunity in the future.

Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

As the hon. member indicated, there will be six minutes remaining for his comments when the House next resumes debate on this motion.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise to speak to the Canada-European Union free trade agreement. This is of course an outstanding initiative many years in the making. The reasons to support it are very simple.

At the bottom line, when the study was done in advance of the commencement of negotiations on this Canada-Europe free trade agreement, the study revealed that based on the assumptions it was looking at, an agreement of this nature would deliver an annual boost to the Canadian economy of some $12 billion. That is not small change. That is significant money and it would make a big difference in people's lives. What is also significant is that study was undertaken many years ago, and the likely benefits with the passage of time and the growth of economies are in fact much greater than that. That is the cornerstone we look at: a $12-billion boost in the economy, and that would mean a real difference in the lives of ordinary people, of workers, and of companies across Canada that would have the opportunity to benefit from that.

When I became Canada's trade minister, this negotiation was under way and I very quickly ensured that it became our number one trade priority, the focus of our policy and of our energies. I saw in this potential trade agreement the ability for us to do great things, to really be able to benefit, and that it was in fact a tailor-made opportunity for Canada. For Canada, we also benefited from the fact that it was a bit of a trial run in the negotiations for later negotiating with the United States, but it also meant that we in Canada were in a kind of privileged position. From a trading perspective, we were in a position better than that of any other country in the world.

We had already, through Canada-U.S. free trade and then the North American Free Trade Agreement, tremendous access to our neighbours to the south: the United States, the largest economy in the world. Together with the European Union, they are the two largest economies in the world. Should Canada get this agreement in place, we would be the only significant major developed economy in the world with free trade agreements in place with both the United States and the European Union, the two largest economies in the world.

Picture what potential and opportunity lie there. Suppose individuals anywhere in the world want to set up a manufacturing plant or a business in a place where they can have access to the two biggest markets in the world. They would look at the facts, at the agreements in place, and they would come to the inescapable conclusion that there is one good place to do that, and that place is Canada. That is why this agreement is so important. That is why this agreement would attract significant investment.

When I was trade minister, as we were promoting this I often spoke with potential investors and they talked about the things that made Canada attractive. Some of those things are not as strong now as they were then, including things like our very significant low debt which meant that taxes could stay low for the long term, and our low taxes that meant that it would be very competitive to work in Canada. Some of that has eroded in the past year or so under the current government and the trajectory it is on. That being said, we are still in a pretty good position there. We have other advantages including the most skilled workforce in the world. This additional piece of access to these two great markets is something that would make a tremendous difference to a lot of those investors, and the reason why they were looking at investing in Canada. That would mean jobs for Canadians.

There are other reasons why I think that the straightforward calculus in the study of the potential benefit here underestimates the potential that Canada has. That is because for Europe we have such a significant population, a diaspora from every single country in the European Union that we have the potential, through those ties and linkages, to really capitalize. We have ties of people and ties of language. In this country there are people who speak every single language in the European Union. We have ties of culture and even ties of family and ties of having done business in the past. Those linkages provide the structure on which we can build a transatlantic relationship of strong trade through those diaspora populations. It represents a real opportunity.

For Canada, our trading relationship has benefited, obviously, enormously from the proximity of the United States and our cultural similarity there, and that is why that is such a strong trading relationship.

In some ways it has been almost too easy for Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs to say that they are just going to focus on the United States, because it is there, it is easy, its people have the same language, we watch the same television programs, they can talk to them about what happened on the Grammy Awards last night and we all know what each other are talking about. Canadians have chosen that route, sometimes to the exclusion of other opportunities in the world, all too often simply because it is that easy, and it is hard to criticize people for doing that.

However, with the Canada-European Union free trade agreement, we have an opportunity to do something a little bit different, because of the nature of that diaspora population, because of the strong affection of the people from those countries who live here in Canada and have roots in those countries. It is because of their desire to maintain those ties, and I think because of their recognition of their understanding of linkages and the ties they have through family, through people, and through knowing the culture. They recognize that there is a real opportunity for them without having to go through many of the challenges of familiarizing themselves with the way of doing business in a new country. They are already halfway there, and that provides a tremendous opportunity for them.

I can tell members that, as trade minister, I have worked extensively in putting together support for this agreement, which was near universal among those diaspora communities and among the chambers of commerce. For example, we had a Canada-Austria chamber of commerce and a German chamber of commerce. All of these groups already existed, and a couple more formed, so that we had one for virtually every single country in the European Union that was looking to encourage those ties and prepare for the day when we would get this Canada-European Union free trade agreement in place. By orienting them to think that way, to get ready for it, to prepare to capitalize on the opportunities that would follow, Canada has enormous potential to do that. It was one of those things I was working on when I was trade minister and of which I was very proud.

If we look at that potential for Canada, it is tremendous. The potential for this agreement is positive, as all trade agreements, if done properly and negotiated well. Canada has a tremendous track record. Certainly our Conservative government did very well with the agreements that it negotiated. They all have the potential to be win-win situations, where a rising tide lifts all boats, and people through good agreements benefit from what each other have to offer.

Of course, with Europe, there are other advantages. An agreement can be negotiated on good terms, because we have similar high environmental standards, similar high labour standards, and a similar high standard of living. Therefore, we are not looking at unusual disadvantages. We also have similar cultural and legal roots and systems, all of which means that we can work well and do business well together once that trade agreement is in place.

However, there are other very good reasons why this trade agreement offers opportunity for us, and it goes beyond the straightforward economic. I look at the Canada-European Union free trade agreement in some ways an an extension of positive foreign policy for Canada.

I think Canada is a model country to the world, but this is also an opportunity for us to continue what we certainly were doing in the previous government, which is working to advance our Canadian values on the world stage. We should be proud of what those Canadian values are. We should not be shy about advancing them on the world stage. Our support for human rights, the rule of law, democracy, and freedom are very important fundamental values.

Members may think that when we are talking about Europe, these are all settled questions. However, as we have seen through the scope of the past century, Europe has been wrought by conflict, and we significantly saw a period of half a century where Europe was divided between a Soviet-ruled communist-dominated east, and our free and democratic western models. Economically, there was no contest, which is one of the reasons, ultimately, that the Soviet Union and those communist systems collapsed, and I will speak more about that later.

However, we have an opportunity to provide, through a trade agreement and further ties, greater reinforcement and support for the development of a democratization and stabilization process of those countries. This is particularly the case in an era where we see a somewhat more assertive Russia under the leadership of Putin, where they are looking to expand their sphere of influence to try and have adverse influences on some of the countries around them.

I am thinking particularly of the Baltic countries: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania; and, of course, there are the other former communist countries: Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Poland, Bulgaria, and Romania. These are all part of the European Union. It is important for us to strengthen those economic ties, so that we can help to anchor all of those countries more firmly into the west.

There is an economic dimension, but there is a very strong political dimension. It is a geostrategic dimension. All of those countries already have EU membership. NATO membership has been incredibly important to them. This is an opportunity to layer on top of that, through trade agreements, further ties that are economic and people oriented, which will help to anchor them in the west.

As I said, that is becoming increasingly important. There was a time, when we thought the Cold War was over, that these were considerations that we did not need to concern ourselves with. As we know, sadly that has been changing, and it has been changing over time. If one looks at some of the risks that exist from an aggressive Putin government, the first example, of course, was the intervention of the Russians in Georgia. On the pretext of dealing with challenges in the Abkhazia and South Ossetia republics, which were restive republics, there was a lot of Russian interference. It might be added, in fact, that this was Russian occupation in the form of what were so-called peacekeepers and observers. Ultimately, a conflict was provoked in Georgia, which was, under leadership of Mikheil Saakashvili, pursuing a very strong policy moving to the west, moving to become part of NATO, becoming part of the European Union. In fact, even though it was not part of the European Union, they had that flag flying.

The objective of Putin was to try to stop them from turning to the west. He did successfully provoke a conflict, which I think has had the very unfortunate after-effect of making the balance of the NATO countries reluctant, particularly those in Europe, in taking on Georgia as a member of NATO, notwithstanding that was and has been their clear and expressed preference. We in the Conservative Party believe strongly that countries should have the freedom to choose their allies, that no other country, such as Russia, should be able to impose a veto on that.

However, one of the lessons that was learned from the Georgia experience was that one of the critical decision points was the decision of the NATO members not to extend a membership action plan to Georgia, which seemed to be the event that triggered, that shone the green light for Putin to move in there and create instability.

Similarly, we saw the same thing happen in Ukraine. It was following the Euromaidan uprising to restore democracy and freedom there, and, again, a desire by the people to turn to the west, that provided the excuse, and the basis or the motivation for Putin to move on to the annexation of Crimea, and, of course, the occupation of parts of the Donbass region with the conflict that continues there, which indeed may be escalating in recent days and weeks.

That is why it is so important for us, on another trade agreement, to continue that process towards the trade agreement with Ukraine. It is, again, part of that process of anchoring them, as their population overwhelmingly wants to be anchored, to the west, to the European Union, to NATO.

However, the clear strategic objective of Putin is to try to prevent that from happening and to create a situation of military instability.

We have an opportunity within the European Union, through this agreement, to keep that from being repeated in places like Poland and the Baltics. They have very genuine and well-based fears that this could happen. There are countries like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, that are on the front lines against Russia and have experienced Soviet occupation in the past. We have an opportunity, through our current efforts there, to change that. We have a military deployment there, for which I congratulate the Liberal government. There is a very wise initiative that it has undertaken to provide a deployment to Latvia, to show that we, Canada, are committed strongly to our NATO partners. We are showing resolve under article 5 and sending a clear signal that, should an effort be made to instigate an asymmetrical aggression or something like that in the Baltics, we would resist that. We can, through our free trade agreement, also provide those strong linkages there.

That is important in the Baltics, particularly if we look at the geostrategic situation right now. Right across the border, they have what is called the 76th Guards Air Assault Division, the Pskov battalion. That is literally right across the border from the Baltics. Why should we be concerned about them? These are the most aggressive end of the Russian military. They were involved in the Chechin campaigns. They were there in the Georgian campaign. They have been there in the annexation of Crimea and the Donbass. They have conducted very aggressive military manoeuvres on a continual basis on the borders and in the air space of the Baltic countries.

For that reason, everything we can do to show our strong economic and trade ties to these people will help advance our foreign policy objectives for stability in that area. There are also growth opportunities in these countries. When we have trade agreements, we want to have them with high-growth economies. Where do we find high-growth economies that are compatible? Those former Communist countries of the European Union, because they were held back for half a century, have been doing catch-up, and that means high economic growth and great opportunities for trade agreements.

For example, the European Union's average economic growth in the decade or so from 2004-15, was 1%, but listen to these numbers. Bulgaria, over the same time, had 2.8% average economic growth annually. Czech was 2.4%; Estonia, 2.6%; Latvia, 2.7%; Lithuania 3.1%; Poland, on fire, 3.8%; Romania 2.9%; and Slovakia 3.9%. These are tiger economies.

I look at a country like Estonia, a real model tiger economy, and it has a 10% debt-to-GDP ratio. We in Canada are pretty proud of our 31%. The European Union averages 85%. I might add that our 31% was at the end of the Harper government, in contrast to the Chrétien government when it was at 64%, a number I think we are heading back to pretty quickly under the current government. The fact is, that is a positive example of where there is economic growth. It is a country with policies such as two years of fully paid maternity leave and a low flat tax rate. These are the kind of people we want as our compatible trading partners. These are the people from whom we can benefit. These are high-growth economies for the foreseeable future.

When we look at trade agreements around the world, the logical thing is to look to those high-growth economies. Because they were held back for 50 years, that also means that their trading relationships are not as lengthy and established. So much in that Soviet era was, of course, to Russia and back. They want to turn more and more to the west, and that means we have more opportunity to create new economic ties, to benefit from that, and to help them benefit from those kinds of economic ties.

One of my focuses as trade minister was to always deal with those countries, to look at building those ties, to look for the opportunities that exist there. There is the country of Slovakia, with a tremendous auto parts industry. We have a pretty good track record on auto parts and auto assembly ourselves. These are the kinds of linkages that we should be looking for, not just the old, big companies. I know people like to worry about the Bombardiers and the SNC-Lavalins. However, we have an opportunity, through our diaspora communities and our smaller populations, to get into those countries. Their desire to do it in a free enterprise trading way is so strong because of that half a century of being left behind and what that did to their living standards, what that did for their thirst for freedom, their thirst for free enterprise, their thirst for opportunities to advance themselves.

That is why support for the Canada-European Union free trade agreement is not surprisingly strongest in exactly those countries. They share with us those same geopolitical strategic imperatives, and also that same desire for success and economic growth, and opportunity and advancement.

I am very proud to stand in support of what I think is one of the proudest legacies of our Conservative government. I am very proud to see the current Liberal government continuing to ensure that it is put in place, to show to the world that Canada is a country that is proud of its free trading track record, at a time when there are forces of protectionism under way. We were lucky to have Stephen Harper at the helm in 2008 when the global economic downturn took place. If it were not for his forceful voice in the room at meetings like the G20 meeting in Pennsylvania, at that critical time, we might have seen a wave of protectionism. However, we did not see that.

We saw a commitment to keep borders open and to keep trade strong. Those forces against that are still there, but Canada can and should remain a model. We have willing partners to do that in the Canada-European trade agreement, and I encourage everyone in the House to support it.

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, my riding is built on trade, as most of our ridings are. However, a lot of people in my riding have expressed doubt to me about the value of free trade, which is something I do not necessarily agree with them on, but their perspective is not completely unreasonable. My riding's main industry is forestry, and it has had a pretty rough ride with respect to trade.

I wonder if my colleague from York—Simcoe could tell us how free trade helps the middle class in this country.

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, we saw the benefits of it after the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement, and now the North American Free Trade Agreement. We saw unprecedented growth. I remember the great debate in the 1988 election when we heard how we were going to lose our culture industries, lose the CBC. That did not work out that way. We were going to lose all of that fine wine we have, such as Baby Duck, and there was some crackling rosé, or something like that. Those wines somehow did get lost, but the replacement was an unbelievably high-quality wine industry, not just in places like the Okanagan, but in Niagara. We have seen that industry spread all across the country.

The opponents of free trade commented throughout about the spectres of the terrible things we will lose. Guess what? We received even better things, in terms of jobs, economic growth, and prosperity. I could go through sector after sector. Under the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement or NAFTA, we did far better with the auto industry than we did under the old Auto Pact. That is another example of how we have succeeded.

Canadians can compete. Canada can do well. Canada has the best workforce in the world. Canadians have ambition and drive. We need to open the doors and encourage people to walk through those doors, and we will see increased prosperity for Canada.

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his kind words about the Okanagan wine industry. That is an industry that has benefited from free trade.

I wanted to ask this question of Liberal members today, but I see that in this last day of debate on this important legislation, the government is not putting up any speakers, so I will ask the member for York—Simcoe.

We debated the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement last week. The NDP is happy to support that agreement. We are very much in favour of trade agreements that benefit the people of Canada. However, we have some strong concerns about CETA. Although we do 40% or more of our European trade with Great Britain, the U.K. is now pulling out of the European Union. We have no analysis of how that might affect Canada, but we have given concessions to the European Union for this agreement.

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the fact that we have an agreement already negotiated and in place that the U.K. is part of provides a basis for us to continue on the same terms, or to negotiate even better terms if that country leaves the European Union. This is not something I consider a negative thing but rather a positive thing. We already have a head start on negotiating a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom that, say, the United States simply does not have.

Again, I talk about the privileged position that this agreement will give Canada compared with other potential locations for people to locate their investments in. We will be in a tremendous spot to be able to do that, even if we determine to have the exact terms in the Canada-European Union free trade agreement continue with the U.K. It is a potential negotiating approach for others as well.

I am not concerned that the U.K. will turn its back on Canada. This gives us a head start on having such a free trade agreement, and that is good news for Canadians.

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, our Conservative government, under the watchful eye and governance of Stephen Harper, signed many trade agreements. Many things went into not just signing the agreements but putting into place investments that would ensure our goods and our people could benefit from those trade agreements.

I wonder if our hon. colleague from York—Simcoe could comment on the gateway program and the marketing programs that our Conservative government under Stephen Harper invested in, to ensure our small and medium enterprises could not just get access to those markets, which is important, but to teach our small and medium enterprises how to take advantage of such trade agreements.

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member points out not just one of the most significant elements of our infrastructure program but that the gateways, Atlantic and Pacific, were really good models for identifying what we need to be good at trade. What kind of infrastructure needs to be in place? How do we make our ports work as effectively as possible to ship containers? How can we put ourselves in a position, once we negotiate these trade agreements, to support the trade that follows? Time is money in any kind of business, particularly trade. When shipping goods, that is particularly important.

I am very proud of the investments we made in our gateways that have put us in a position to capitalize on agreements like this. I know that the next step, one that, as I indicated, has been a little more frustrating, is getting Canadian businesses to step up and take advantage of the opportunities. That is why the Canada-European Union agreement is so important, because we already have the people-to-people ties. We have the infrastructure in place. We are putting the legal agreement in place. Then we can encourage folks to take advantage of these people-to-people ties, capitalize on the potential for trade, and through that, give us the economic growth, the job creation, and the increased standard of living that would come from all of these things.

Canada is a relatively small country. If we trade only with ourselves, we will be a very poor country. We depend on trade with the world. This is a tremendous signal to the rest of the world that it can, indeed, benefit from a trade agreement, even at a time like now.

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I concur with the member when he says that Canada would be very poor if we did not have the ability to trade. It is our trade that enables us to do as well as we do economically and socially, I would argue.

One thing worthy of at least noting is that given the current climate in North America, once this trade agreement is in place, Canada could actually be a fairly important linchpin, if I could use that word, in the trade corridor between Europe and North America.

I wonder if the member might provide his thoughts on just how important Canada's positioning would be because of this agreement.

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.


Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, it would act less as a corridor into the United States, and I am not sure that is the best avenue, than as a location for investment.

I go back to the point I made. Money is mobile. Factories move. This is why we are very concerned about things like a carbon tax and other tax hikes the Liberal government has been proposing, because those things hurt our competitiveness.

People can move wherever they want in the world. One thing this agreement would do for us is give people a location where they could invest and ensure that they would have access to the United States and to Europe for the goods and products they produced here.

When people look at where they are going to invest, would it make sense to invest in a country in Europe if they would not necessarily have access to the United States, such a huge market? They would have only half the access they want. If they want to be in both places, this is the place to be once the Canada-European Union free trade agreement is in place. It would brings jobs here. It would bring foreign investment here, which is a positive thing. I know not all parties in the House have always felt this way, but we in the Conservative Party believe in that, because that kind of investment means jobs that help people in local communities, that help families have more prosperity and the rising standard of living that we as Canadians believe is so important for the future of our families.

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today in the House to speak to Bill C-30 and about the important role trade plays in our Canadian economy.

This is one of the few bills I can praise the current government for. It is something I wish I could do more often, if the Liberals would follow the Conservative path.

They obviously picked up on the great work we were doing as a government and have been able to help carry it through. Maybe the Liberals can take some of those lessons on things like balancing the budget or lowering taxes. One can only hope that maybe their understanding and recognition of the importance of trade will extend to other things that are important to our economy and to our fiscal situation in this country. Again, that is me being an optimist.

Let me get to the heart of the matter we are speaking to today, which is trade itself. Canada is a trading nation, and trade really is the lifeblood of our economy. In fact, one in five jobs in Canada, and about 60% of our GDP, are linked to exports. We do not have to look very far or very hard to figure out how important trade is to our economy and to opportunities for Canadians, based on those statistics.

History has shown that trade is the best way to help us create jobs and growth and long-term prosperity here in Canada. As trade increases, so does our nation's economic success, which obviously then puts more money into the pockets of hard-working Canadians. That is really what it is all about, at the end of the day. People talk about a strong economy and opportunities. What it all boils down to is putting more money into the pockets of Canadians to feed their families and provide better opportunities for their children. That is really what we are speaking about when we talk about trade and economic prosperity.

Under our previous Conservative government, the Stephen Harper government, one of our key accomplishments was that we launched one of the most ambitious pro-trade plans in our country's history. It was probably the most ambitious, in fact. I would like to take a moment, while I am on that point, to add a note of praise. I have heard others who spoke do the same, but it is important that it be said, because credit should be given where credit is due.

I look at the member for Abbotsford, who was the former minister of international trade, and the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster, who was our agriculture minister, and the great and hard work they put in. I know the travel schedules those two individuals and others had to undertake to accomplish some of the things that were accomplished under the Stephen Harper Conservative government. Under the leadership of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper himself, some great things were done, but it was a lot of hard work on the part of those members in particular. I want to note the legacy they created, because I think that is important. The two of them remain here in the House and continue to work hard in opposition to encourage these kinds of things to continue.

Under the leadership of those individuals, we were able to conclude free trade agreements with 38 countries. Examples are Colombia; the European Free Trade Association, which includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland; Honduras; Jordan; Panama; Peru; South Korea; and the 28 member states of the European Union. There were some pretty significant advancements there.

We also concluded, signed, or brought into force foreign investment promotion and protection agreements, FIPAs, with 24 countries. That was more than any other government in Canadian history as well.

One of our historic achievements was the Canada–Korea Free Trade Agreement, which was Canada's first free trade agreement in the Asia Pacific region, which is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world. South Korea is not only a major economic player and a key market for us in Canada but also serves as a gateway for Canadian businesses to the entire Asia Pacific region. This agreement is projected to increase Canadian merchandise exports to South Korea by 32% and to boost Canada's economy by $1.7 billion.

Additionally, in November 2013, our Conservative government released the global markets action plan, which was our pro-jobs, pro-export plan. It was aimed at creating new opportunities for Canadians, through trade and investment, by targeting emerging and established markets with broad Canadian interests.

Obviously, when we look at our record, we strongly support international trade, and we support international trade initiatives that will generate increased economic activity, jobs, and a collaborative relationship between Canada and emerging economies.

Canada should also strive to maximize the benefits we have as a free trading nation and establish trading relationships, beyond North America, with these emerging markets. To that end, it is important that the government vigorously pursue the reduction of international trade barriers and tariffs. This is why we supported Bill C-13, the trade facilitation agreement, which received royal assent not long ago. The trade facilitation agreement will simplify customs procedures, reduce red tape, expedite the release and clearance of goods, reduce costs associated with processing, and make international trade more predictable for Canadians.

Predictability is certainly key. We see the effects when we lack predictability when we look at the current government and its never-ending, constant changes to regulatory processes for energy project reviews. We can see what the lack of certainty creates when the chill is put on investments. Certainty is certainly key when we look at providing opportunities for businesses to help grow the economy. They need to have certainty.

Canadian investors, importers and exporters of goods, and small and medium-sized businesses will certainly benefit from the implementation of the TFA.

Another trade agreement that was successfully negotiated by the previous Conservative government was the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement. This agreement will continue to strengthen the Canada-Ukraine partnership in peace and prosperity. Total bilateral merchandise trade between Canada and Ukraine averaged $289 million in 2011-15. It is expected to expand by 19% as a result of the implementation of this trade agreement. With this agreement, Canada and Ukraine will eliminate duties on 99.9% and 86% of our respective current imports, thereby benefiting both Canadian and Ukrainian exporters and consumers. Our GDP will increase by about $29.2 million under that agreement, and Ukraine's GDP will expand by about $18.6 million. Canada's exports to the Ukraine will increase by about $41.2 million.

Canada's export gains will be broad-based, with exports of pork, machinery and equipment, transport equipment, other manufactured products, motor vehicles and parts, and chemical products being some of the leading industries. Our previous Conservative government also established market access for beef in Ukraine in July 2015. Canada exported about $35.5 million worth of agriculture and agrifood and seafood products to Ukraine in 2014. These obviously show some of the benefits of trade and trade agreements and what they can mean for Canada.

Let me get to the trade agreement we are talking about today, the Canada-European Union comprehensive economic and trade agreement. Negotiated by our previous Conservative government, CETA is by far the most ambitious trade initiative Canada has ever concluded. Once this agreement comes into force, Canada will be one of the few countries in the world to have preferential access to the world's two largest economies: the European Union and the United States.

The Conservative Party strongly supports international trade initiatives that will generate increased economic activity, drive prosperity and job creation, and foster greater co-operation between our democratic allies.

A joint Canada-EU study concluded that a trade agreement with the EU could boost Canada's economy by about $12 billion annually, and increase bilateral trade by 20%. It is important to put some sense to what that means for the average Canadian and Canadian families. It is the economic equivalent of adding about $1,000 to the average Canadian family's income. It would add about 80,000 new jobs to the Canadian economy. That is something that the government has failed at to this point. This would be something to help create some jobs to put people to work, and provide new opportunities for Canadian families to increase their income.

When CETA comes into force, nearly 100% of all EU tariff lines on non-agricultural products will be duty-free, along with close to 94% for agricultural products. The agreement would also give Canadian service suppliers the best market access the EU has ever granted any of its trading partners. That is great news for the 13.8 million Canadians who are employed in the industry. It accounts for about 70% of our country's GDP.

Under CETA, Canadian firms could bid on contracts and supply their goods and services to the three main EU level institutions: the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the European Council, as well as the EU member state governments, and thousands of regional and local government entities. The Canada-EU trade agreement would give Canadian suppliers of goods and services better access to the EU's $3.3-trillion government procurement market, which would provide them with significant new export opportunities.

Investment plays a key role in the Canadian economy. CETA would provide Canadian and EU investors with greater stability and transparency for their investments. The stock of known foreign direct investment by Canadian companies in the EU totalled about $210 billion at the end of 2015, representing about 21% of Canadian direct investment abroad. Conversely, in that same year, known foreign direct investment from European companies in Canada totalled more than $242 billion, representing 31% of total foreign investment in Canada.

This is a landmark agreement. It has resulted from years of hard work, especially by our world-class trade negotiators who did all the heavy lifting on this.

I would like to focus in and speak to the benefits CETA would bring to my home province of Alberta. Times are tough in Alberta right now, so when we hear any good news on the economic front, it is something we can greatly appreciate. There is no question Alberta stands to benefit from the preferential access to the EU markets. The EU is already our province's fourth largest export destination and our third largest trading partner. Once in force, CETA would eliminate tariffs on almost all of Alberta's exports, and provide access to new market opportunities in the EU. CETA also includes provisions that would ease regulatory barriers, reinforce intellectual property rights, and ensure more transparent rules for market access. Alberta exporters could benefit from all of these improved conditions. When we look at some of the opportunities there, the main merchandise exports from Alberta to the EU are agriculture and agrifood products, advanced manufacturing, metals and mineral products. Some of our other exports include chemicals and plastics, fishing and fish products, forest products, and information and communications technology.

I would also like to take a minute or two to talk about one very specific opportunity that we have already seen open up as a result of this agreement.

In 2014, when negotiations had proven to be successful toward this agreement, a beef processing plant in my riding reopened. It had been a farmer-owned plant that had closed down in 2006, and had been sitting vacant since then.

In 2014, we were able to announce that there was a buyer, Rich Vesta from the United States, who is well known in the beef industry and has brought a lot of great opportunities to some of the businesses he has been involved with in the United States. He decided to purchase this facility and bring it back online. He chose to do that largely based on this agreement. He saw an opportunity for specific cuts of beef to go to some niche markets that would be based around some of the trade agreements we had been able to sign for Canada, in particular, the opportunities that CETA would create. Even before being implemented, we already could see the benefits of these opportunities.

That plant had been sitting there dormant since 2006. I was able to tour it recently and it is nearing its opening. It is expected to open later this month, in fact. When I toured it a couple of months back, I could see it was really coming together. I heard about all of the innovations and improvements being made. This is going to be an absolute world-class facility. The processing innovations that it is going to bring to Canada are amazing. They are all based on trade opportunities being created by some of the trade agreements under the Conservative government and the hope generated by this particular agreement as well.

We can already see the success stories and I am sure they will continue. It is something that people are very excited about and proud of in my home community of Airdrie, as well as Balzac in Rocky View County, where the facility is located. It will create jobs for people in the area. Many people are struggling right now and trying to find work. Not only will this create opportunities for people, but down the line there will be opportunities, such as more buyers for our cattle as well. Small cow-calf operations would benefit, right up through feedlots, etc., because it would create opportunities for everyone. People are really excited about what it would mean for my area.

I will take a minute to speak about some of the opportunities and benefits that CETA would bring to the forestry sector in Canada, which is another example. The EU is actually the world's third largest importer of forest products. In 2015, it accounted for about 14% of global forest product imports, or about $46 billion. While most Canadian forest products already enter the EU duty-free, when CETA comes into force, Canadians will also enjoy quota-free market access. This means Canada would have a preferential trade advantage with the EU that many competitors will not have.

As well, bilateral dialogue on forest products would enhance Canada's ability to influence the development of EU measures, reducing the potential negative impacts of EU measures on Canadian exports, and help ensure continued access for Canadian forest products to the European Union. That would provide Canada with a really unique window into the regulatory development process in the EU. Canada would then be able to raise industry concerns with proposed regulations at a very early stage. That would be of benefit to our forestry producers as well.

We are also looking at a new phytosanitary measures joint management committee that would facilitate discussions between Canadian and EU experts. It would provide a venue for experts to resolve issues impeding trade before they become major problems.

CETA would also establish a framework for co-operation on the full scope of animal health, plant health, and food safety provisions.

Tourism is also something that I focus on greatly. It is pretty important in my riding. We already have great links and ties between Canada and the European Union countries when it comes to tourism. I have often said that tourism breeds trade and trade breeds tourism, so opportunities would be created by those links that already exist. This agreement would help to build on all of those things.

I stand today to show my support for CETA and for the opportunities that it would create, the jobs it would create certainly for small and medium-sized businesses in our country and right on through. I appreciate the opportunity to speak in support of the bill.

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate many of the words from the member across the way, but it is important for us to recognize that the legislation on the EU agreement which is before us today is something that has been worked on for the last number of years. It was great to see the co-operation between the current minister and former minister in getting everything signed off and getting us to the legislative point. To try to give the impression that it was a done deal is somewhat stretching it, I suspect, but it is equally important for us to recognize there was a great deal of work that was in fact done prior to this government.

The member made reference to other trade agreements. In particular, he made reference to the Ukraine agreement which we just passed on Friday. Seeing that legislation pass is a very positive step forward. Maybe the member could draw a comparison between the Ukraine trade agreement and the EU trade agreement and how Canada's middle class will in fact benefit by both.