House of Commons Hansard #157 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was co-operatives.


Designation of Alternate Member for Private Members' BusinessGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

(Motion agreed to)

Designation of Alternate Member for Private Members' BusinessGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I suspect that if you canvass the House now, you would find consent to see the clock at 1:30 p.m.

Designation of Alternate Member for Private Members' BusinessGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Is that agreed?

Designation of Alternate Member for Private Members' BusinessGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Designation of Alternate Member for Private Members' BusinessGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from February 13 consideration of the motion.

Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

1:20 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

Mr. Speaker, I believe co-ops are really important to Canadians, and I have had the opportunity to address the House on this issue previously. I have found over the years, and this even predates my first election back in 1988, that co-ops play such a critical role in the development of our economy.

Let me give a specific example. My first experience in co-ops was back in the mid-eighties. Our community of Weston, which is in the north end, and some would argue the west end of Winnipeg, wanted to bring life back to the community. We looked at the concept of a housing co-op. We started off on something as simple as revitalizing a community, which is not as simple as one might think but for all intents and purposes for the argument, it was a wonderful policy that could truly make a difference.

We recognized that co-operatives had a role to play in the grassroots of our community, not only in large communities but in different sectors. Whether it is financial housing or agriculture, we have co-ops throughout. We identified that one of the ways we could advance the community of Weston was to incorporate a housing co-op.

The number of units we were able to establish was truly amazing. If people talk to individuals who have lived in co-ops for any length of time, there is a different attitude toward co-ops, one of being a resident as opposed to being a tenant.

I have had the good fortune over the years to represent different forms of co-ops. We can find the oldest housing co-op in Canada in Winnipeg North, and I am not 100% sure of this, but arguably it could even be the oldest North America. It is he Willow Park East Housing Co-op. It has been around for decades now. I applaud the amount of effort and tremendous goodwill that has gone in to the development of that co-op, which has become community within itself. It is within the Shaughnessy Park area, which is a wonderful place to live. I live on Pritchard Avenue, just a few blocks away from the co-op.

Winnipeg North also has well over a dozen co-ops, and they range. I think of the Arctic Co-op on Inkster Blvd. It provides all sorts of goods and services up into rural and northern communities and reaching into Canada's territories.

The Red River Co-op is an insurance company to co-operatives that provide banking services or financial services. In fact, one of the more active co-ops in which there has been some expansion in recent years is in the area of supplying groceries. When other stores have closed down, co-ops have established grocery stores in the city of Winnipeg.

One of the busiest gas stations in Winnipeg North is likely the Red River Co-op gas station, which is located in Keewatin and Kimberly. It is very well attended by consumers purchasing gas.

Whether it is housing, financial needs, groceries, they benefit our rural communities, and I really want to emphasize this. I would like to think we should even start talking more about rural Canada. One of the strongest economic factors in rural Canada are the co-ops. Many of our smaller communities have developed co-ops, and they play a vital role in providing all forms of services.

I stand in support of Motion No. 100, recognizing the need for the House to have an ongoing discussion and dialogue. I truly believe that if people genuinely understood the economic and social advantages of co-ops, we would probably see more co-ops established. It is a great way to cultivate the economy and to see our communities develop.

I could have made reference to our United Housing Co-op, which is located in Meadows West , or I could have talked about the Seven Oaks Village Housing Co-operative, which is located in The Maples, or the M.A.P.S. Housing Co-op, which is located in the traditional north end, not to mention the many other non-profits that provide so many forms of shelter to financial needs.

Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

1:25 p.m.


Arnold Viersen Conservative Peace River—Westlock, AB

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to stand and speak to the motion that the government look into how co-ops have been developed and how they are developing and set some goals for developing co-ops for the future.

In my community of Neerlandia, Alberta, there has been a co-op for 95 years. It started out purely as a grocery store and has grown to be a $50 million a year business today. It sells everything from fertilizers to groceries. It has a liquor store, a lumberyard, a hardware store. It sells seeds, fertilizer, grain augers, grain bins, and all those kinds of things. It is a very large part of our community. In fact, it is the only commercial interest in the town centre of our community. There is a restaurant as part of the co-op as well. It has been a source of pride for our community and a great source of employment as well. I have several family members who work there. My Uncle Jan works in the hardware department, and I have several cousins who work there as well.

Without the co-op, it would be a significantly different community. When people drive into Neerlandia, they are struck by the sheer size of our co-op. The hamlet of Neerlandia, the community that I claim to be from, has 30 houses. It is not a very large community. There are two large churches and the co-op. The co-op is probably the first thing people notice as they drive down the highway. I am from Alberta, which is a reasonably flat place. From a long distance people can see a church steeple and they can see the elevator leg on the side of the co-op's fertilizer building. People can also see the red lights of the giant co-op sign on the front of the co-op. That can probably be seen for 10 miles before arriving in Neerlandia. There is no doubt that our co-op is the identifying feature of our community.

The co-op, as I said, is 95 years old. My ancestors who came from the Netherlands were dirt poor. They were 150 kilometres from Edmonton, and 25 miles from the nearest town, and it was always labourious to get basic supplies. They thought that rather than compete against one another for the very basic things they needed such as feed for their animals, groceries, basic clothing, and some farm equipment, they would get together and build a co-op so they would have the buying power to bring those things in. They hired an employee and they built a small shop. That is how it started in 1922. From there, we are where we are today, but it took some vision from my ancestors to bring it to fruition.

I am proud to say that I am a member of the co-op. In my community, if individuals are not a member of the co-op, people will take their temperature and say, “What's wrong? There must be something wrong with you. Why aren't you participating in our co-op?” People get dividends, after all, at the end of the year. It is a great way to participate in a community, but they also get back some dividends from it at the end of the year. In addition, members gain equity in the co-op and when members turn 65, the co-op pays out their equity. For a small fry like me, that probably will not amount to $25,000, and will probably be less than that, but for some farmers who spend nearly $1 million every year at the co-op, when they decide to retire, there might be a nice cheque for their retirement. We are all participating in this venture and it has been very successful to this point.

The same community that started that initiative also started a funeral initiative. I think that when one of the first deaths occurred in our community, people said they needed a graveyard so they took a plot of land and made it into a graveyard. Then they wondered how they would manage the graveyard.

What they put in place was a co-op. The Neerlandia Funeral Association is what it is called. Being a member of that co-op provides the privilege of paying for the upkeep of the graveyard, but what also ends up happening is that when there is a death of a member of the co-op, the costs of the funeral expenses, the plot, and those kinds of things are shared among all of the members. I think it costs about $110 for each member. Believe me, we are continuing to sign up more people all the time so that our membership does not continue to dwindle, as anyone could imagine would be the case.

We have a thriving, young community. In fact, the Alberta government just built a brand new school there to accommodate the growth of the community. We outgrew our old school and saw that we needed a new school. After the recent census, we saw that the population growth in the area was going to demand a new school, and one was built.

The co-op is very much one of the pillars of the community, so I would like to take a moment to recognize some of the guys who work very hard in my community keeping the large commercial interest called the co-op running.

Mr. Richard Krikke is the president of the co-op in Neerlandia. I have met him on several occasions. I know Mr. Bruce Wieringa as well. He is one of the board members. I rode the school bus with his kids and went to church with him. Mr. Wayne Visser has also done an incredible amount of work in my community. These guys are also supporters of mine, for which I am truly grateful. I know Mr. Wes Nanninga well. He is a great advocate for the community and works very hard keeping the co-op operating.

These people have shown immense vision in taking the co-op in new directions with the new cardlock. I know the member for Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies knows very much about co-op cardlocks, as all of northern B.C. is covered by co-op cardlocks. I know that the co-op is branching out into other communities with the co-op cardlock for sure. I know that Wes Nanninga has been working hard on that as well.

Seth Olthuis is another one of the board members. I think I rode the school bus with back in the day. The board members all work hard all the time, making sure that the co-op continues to flourish. I would also like to recognize Mr. Jim Greilach. I drive by his place all the time and wave when I go by, and that is very much another feature of my community. If people do not wave when they pass others on the highway, they will get phone calls fairly quickly, asking what is wrong and what they did because they were not waved at. That's the way it is in small-town Alberta, for sure.

There is also Mr. Craig Tiemstra, who is actually my neighbour. He farms the land all around my house. He has done amazing work. He was the past president of the co-op as well. I would like to thank these guys for their work in my local co-op. I know that they will be very appreciative of this motion that recognizes the strong work that co-ops do in our communities all across the country. There is no doubt about that.

I will address one more thing. In my riding, there are six Hutterite communities, and they are co-operative communities. I had the privilege of touring a couple of them last week with my colleague from Mégantic—L'Érable. These are thriving communities and economic powerhouses in our region. They own thousands and thousands of acres of land. They buy the latest equipment to farm this land. They are really an icon on our landscape for sure.

I want to talk about REAs, rural electrification associations, that we have in northern Alberta, but it looks like my time will be taken away.

I would say one more thing. The Co-op brand has a big refinery in Alberta and Saskatchewan. I know they do great work there as well.

Let us support—

Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

1:35 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Order, please.

The hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

1:35 p.m.


Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to this motion calling on the government to recognize the important role co-operatives play in the economy and ensure that they continue to thrive.

Co-operatives provide economic strength to our regions. They have contributed tremendously to the economy in the past and will continue to contribute greatly in the future. A federal strategy is important for strengthening co-operatives while encouraging their creation and longevity.

I recognize the co-operatives' important contribution to the economy. The co-operative movement was the impetus to collective entrepreneurship in Montérégie in many fields. In my riding, there are excellent co-operatives that provide essential services and strive to offer the best service and products at all times.

My personal experience with co-operatives began when I was very young because I come from a village where there is an electrical power co-operative, the Coopérative de Saint-Jean-Baptiste. When I got to cégep, one of my first commitments was to become president of the student co-operative. That is when I came up with my signature, because I had to sign 1,000 membership cards in one evening for the first day of school the next day. I still use the same signature today.

After that, when I entered the job market, I was the president and founder of a housing co-operative, where I lived for several years. I was also the vice president of a food co-operative. I am still a member of the Coopérative funéraire de Saint-Hyacinthe, and I hope to remain a member for a very long time.

In my riding, Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, co-operatives are well established and make a significant contribution to the vitality and pride of my riding. I would like to give a few examples.

The first one, Coop fédérée, is very important for the agri-food sector. People often do not realize that they are doing business with this co-operative. People know that it is in the agricultural sector, but it is also involved in the retail and innovation sectors. For example, when people fill up at a Sonic service station, or buy propane from it, or when they shop at a BMR or Unimat hardware store, they are doing business with Coop fédérée.

When people buy Olymel meat products at the grocery store, whether they are pork or poultry products, they do not realize that they are supporting a co-operative. We are very proud that Olymel's headquarters is in Saint-Hyacinthe. This co-operative has a sterling reputation. It now has about 100 affiliated co-operatives that are owned by 108,000 people.

Many other co-operatives in my riding are affiliated with the Coop fédérée. For example, there is also Coop Comax, which resulted from the merger of the following seven agricultural co-ops in my region: La Présentation, Saint-Barnabé-Sud, Saint-Nazaire, Saint-Denis-sur-Richelieu, Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu, Verchères, and Sainte-Rosalie.

There is also Coop Sainte-Hélène and Coop des Montérégiennes, which resulted from the merger of the following three co-operatives: St-André-d'Acton, Saint-Damase, and Coop Excel. It is one of the 10 largest agricultural co-operatives in the province and a major social and economic driver in our region.

Of course, in my riding, we also have the well-known dairy co-operative Agropur, which has the Damafro plant in Saint-Damase, which it bought, and another plant in Saint-Hyacinthe.

I know that many of my colleagues from Quebec and elsewhere travel through Saint-Hyacinthe as they take the Trans-Canada Highway between Montreal and Quebec City. I invite them to visit because Agropur has a distribution centre. The co-operative bought an old car dealership, which has a lovely showroom where people can buy fine cheeses from Agropur and other Quebec cheese factories for a really good price. I invite all members to go there.

The Coopérative aux P'tits Soins was created as a result of a need for services for seniors and people who are losing their autonomy. It is an in-home support co-operative, a wonderful socio-economic project that provides seniors and those losing their autonomy with help at home, including high-quality housekeeping services.

We can see that co-operatives have had an extremely positive impact on the local economies in Quebec. I see it in my riding. We are proud of the success of our co-operatives.

The economic benefits of co-operatives are significant. In the Montérégie area, this translates into more than 200 non-financial co-operatives, more than 7,000 jobs, and more than 80,000 members. However, there is one co-operative that I would like to talk about in more detail today. I did not know about this co-operative, but it presented a very important and innovative project for my riding. CoopTel is located in the riding of my colleague from Shefford, which is right beside my riding.

It was established 70 years ago. Its mission is to provide diversified and reliable telecommunications products and services, which evolve along with the needs of customers and their community, at competitive prices, thanks to the contribution of an evolving technology and competent and engaged partners. This sector has major stakeholders. It is truly amazing that one of our co-operatives provides this service.

I decided to actively contribute to the rollout of fibre optic throughout my riding in order to have high quality and affordable Internet access throughout the region. This project is not just CoopTel's and my doing: it is the result of the determination of all the stakeholders in my riding. When they attended the economic forum of the greater Saint-Hyacinthe chamber of commerce, stakeholders talked about how crucial a fibre optic network is to co-operatives and all SMEs. I would add that it is also very important for families.

The CoopTel project is a major project aimed at bringing five RCMs online, over hundreds and hundreds of kilometres. Such a project will help our co-operatives excel, as well as be more productive and more competitive. This major infrastructure project will be submitted for funding under the “connect to innovate” program. This project is very important to my riding. It will help bring fibre optics to many municipalities, including the Saint-Édouard sector in Saint-Liboire, the Saint-Barnabé-Sud sector, the rural part of Saint-Thomas-d'Aquin, the countryside surrounding Saint-Barnabé, and the Saint-Jude, Saint-Hugues, and Sainte-Hélène-de-Bagot sectors. In those municipalities, many businesses depend on reliable Internet access. Small and medium-size businesses face challenges that other, larger businesses do not have. Businesses owners must first have vision and leadership, and they also have to reassure us that they have the tools they need.

Although the government has invested $100 million a year for Canada as a whole and the Government of Quebec launched its “Québec branché” initiative, which also has an envelope of $100 million, that is not nearly enough to meet all the needs.

It is 2017. High-speed Internet is a basic service. That is according to the CRTC, not me. The CRTC is calling for universal access to reliable broadband Internet service via fixed and mobile wireless networks in communities of all sizes. Will the government give people in Quebec's regions the means to achieve their ambitions? It is our duty to create the right economic conditions for that.

I am very proud of the co-operatives in my riding. Their reputations are well-established, and their contribution to our economy is vital. Our co-operatives are known nationwide. They are innovative and an undeniable economic force in my region. They create good jobs with good working conditions. They are our pride and joy.

I think we have a duty to help co-operatives thrive in our ridings. We must take advantage of the unique opportunity provided by the connect to innovate program. We in the House must understand and acknowledge that fast, reliable Internet access is critical to our businesses and to the vitality of our regions. The program needs more funding so that all communities, all businesses, and all co-operatives can thrive and achieve their full potential. It all starts with fast, reliable Internet access.

Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.


Paul Lefebvre Liberal Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak to the essential role that co-operatives play in Canada’s economy and recognize the significant contribution that they make by creating jobs and growth for the middle class across Canada.

With approximately 9,000 co-operatives and mutuals in operation, this sector controls assets estimated at $415 billion and employs close to 200,000 Canadians. Co-operatives are a business model that has a track record of success in providing economic benefits to Canadians. They generate jobs for middle-class Canadians and growth in communities across the country.

According to recent data, Quebec has the highest share of incorporated co-operatives, followed by Ontario and Saskatchewan. Because of their ability to fulfill the collective need of individuals through pooled skills and resources, co-operatives have also proven to be an important tool for economic development in Canada’s official language minority communities.

In 2012, co-operatives had almost eight million memberships and paid out $607 million in dividends to their members and communities. In addition, there were over 26,000 volunteers involved in the day-to-day operations of co-operatives.

It is clear that co-operatives offer many advantages to communities across Canada. The flexibility of the co-operative business model allows them to operate as a not-for-profit organization or a registered charity. It also means that co-operatives work in many sectors in Canada's economy.

According to recent statistics, 42% of co-operatives surveyed were in the real estate sector, 14% were in wholesale and retail, 8% were in the agriculture, forestry, fishery, and hunting sectors, and 8% were in the health care and social assistance sectors.

Co-operatives are also active in the financial sector. For example, the Mouvement des caisses Desjardins, of which I have been a member since I was eight years old and which has more than 10 branches in the riding of Sudbury, as well as Vancity play a very active role in a solid financial system by providing choices to consumers and offering healthy competition.

The vast majority of financial co-operatives are provincially incorporated and regulated. This sector is made up of more than 600 credit unions and caisses populaires serving approximately 11.3 million Canadians. On the insurance side, there are approximately 100 insurance mutuals.

Some of our country's most recognizable and successful businesses are co-operative enterprises. The list of the top 50 non-financial co-operatives in this country includes a variety of businesses operating in a range of sectors.

Canada's co-operatives make a significant contribution to our economy, whether it is the Federated Co-operatives Limited; a petroleum refinery based in Saskatchewan; La Coop fédérée, an agrifood enterprise located in Quebec; the Red River Co-op, a gas bar and retail outlet in Manitoba; Mountain Equipment Co-op; the Eat Local Sudbury Co-operative in my riding; or the Co-opérative Régionale de Nipissing Sudbury in northern Ontario.

One noteworthy example that many of my colleagues will recognize is the Agropur Dairy Cooperative, based in Quebec, mentioned by my colleague. This organization represents dairy farmers not only in Quebec but also in southern Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador. This co-op processes an incredible 5.7 billion litres of milk annually in its 37 plants spread throughout North America.

Agropur's success is reflected not only in its economic impact, with an impressive $5.9 billion in sales, but also in the well-being of the people it serves, including nearly 3,400 dairy farmer members and their 8,000 employees.

While these co-operatives operate in different sectors, they all share the same common principles, including voluntary and open membership, democratic member control, economic and democratic participation by co-op members, autonomy and independence, education, co-operation among co-operatives, and sustainable community development.

These organizations are addressing critical needs, whether it be economic, social, or cultural, in the communities in which they operate. Perhaps what is most encouraging is that Canada's largest co-operatives continue to thrive, as demonstrated by consistently growing revenues and total memberships and employment.

In addition, the 2014 small business financing survey conducted by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada revealed that co-ops have a higher survival rate than private sector small and medium-size enterprises. Their longevity can be explained in part because they operate with a strong connection to their communities and have a long-term and purpose-driven vision that looks beyond purely economic growth.

As some of Canada's most successful co-operatives have demonstrated, the model is flexible and innovative and has the potential for further growth here in Canada. That is why I believe it is important to support Canada's co-operative sector and to help co-ops access the business supports they require.

Through federal departments such as the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and its regional development agencies, financial support is available through a range of programs and services that help co-ops start up, as well as in their growth and expansion.

As some of Canada's most successful co-operatives have demonstrated, the model is flexible and innovative and has the potential for further growth here in Canada.

To sum up, I recognize the value that co-operatives provide to the economy and I continue to support them. Accordingly, I support Motion No. 100 moved by the hon. member for Brossard—Saint-Lambert, from Quebec, in memory of Mauril Bélanger, who was a staunch defender of the co-operative movement.

Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.


Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today in support of Motion No. 100. This motion from the hon. member for Brossard—Saint-Lambert proposes that the government recognize the important role that co-operatives play in the economy, and ensure they continue to thrive.

It is no secret that the cost of housing is extremely high and continues to break records across Canada. The average price for homes around my riding of Yellowhead is approximately half of the national average, which is still affordable for hard-working Albertans. However, this low average does not mean that access to affordable housing is not an issue in my riding.

In my riding of Yellowhead, multiple towns rely on funding from the province to provide housing to low-income families and seniors. Housing co-ops make a valuable contribution to affordable housing by providing lodging to approximately 250,000 Canadians across Canada. The town of Rocky Mountain House has two housing co-ops, serving 28 families. The town of Hinton has 47 unit complexes. The town of Edson has 24 units. The town of Drayton Valley has 26 units, with another 20 to be built. Even in Jasper National Park, co-operative housing units exist.

Our party supports a multi-pronged approach to affordable co-operative housing, involving provincial, territorial, and municipal governments. Motion No. 100 attempts to do just that. It calls on the government to develop a federal co-operative strategy to promote and support Canada's co-operative sector through consultations with provinces, territories, municipalities, indigenous communities, and co-operative groups.

Our previous Conservative government worked with all governments and indigenous groups to develop and implement affordable housing solutions by committing close to $2 billion to build new units, and to repair and update existing social housing. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, better known as CMHC, has largely been the government's tool by which financial aid programs have been delivered. Our party spent almost $19 billion on housing through CMHC since 2006, a lot more than in the present budget.

Through initiatives such as the investment in affordable housing, the IAH, and the housing first initiative, we empowered Canadians and fought homelessness at a fundamental level. Our Conservative Party also sought to minimize difficulties by equipping CMHC with a wide range of tools to enable home providers to plan for the end of funding, and to allow for flexibility in specific programs, especially in regard to renovations and capital repairs.

If federal funding agreements end, tens of thousands of low-income households across the country, including seniors, newcomers, lone-parent families, people with disabilities, and others, are in danger of becoming homeless without the government's reinvestment in co-op housing.

Co-ops and other community housing programs built under federal programs are aging, as all of us are, and have to devote more of their revenues to covering rising maintenance and other operating costs. Most will have to re-mortgage their properties to carry out major renovations and upgrades in the near future. This is why a renewed commitment from federal and provincial governments to support affordable housing for low-income residents in co-ops and other housing communities is necessary.

All Canadians should have a reasonable opportunity to own their own home and have access to safe and affordable housing.

In his mandate, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development has been tasked with renewing federal leadership in housing and prioritizing investments in affordable housing, including construction and renovation as well as community financial aid for financial initiatives. This is just one reason that I hope all parties will support the motion.

There are other kinds of co-operatives besides housing. The Canadian co-operative sector includes close to 8,000 incorporated co-operatives, and it employs over 90,000 Canadians in urban, rural, and remote communities across Canada. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility, and caring for others. They can apply this co-operative business model to almost any type of enterprise: agriculture, utilities, finance, education, housing, retail, and more.

Most of the debate on this motion has revolved around the financial co-operative sector, which includes credit unions and insurance co-operatives. Owned and democratically controlled by their members, these co-ops provide affordable lending and insurance services to Canadians.

Perhaps one of the oldest types of co-ops in my province of Alberta is that of the agricultural sector when farmers got together to sell and purchase grain.

In fact, many of these co-operatives have grown over the years, as the member for Peace River—Westlock mentioned. For example, the largest retailer in the town of Rocky Mountain House is the co-op, which sells food, clothing, hardware building supplies, chemicals, feeds, petroleum products, and much more. There are many of these throughout Canada, including in my province.

My learned friend earlier mentioned the Neerlandia co-op, which I felt was one of the biggest in Alberta until I saw the one in Rocky Mountain House. What he forgot to tell people is the pride of his community. He is very humble and so is his community. They built that building. It is a massive structure, almost the size of this one. They put their rubber boots on and built it with shovels and laid the cement. Everybody in the community participated. It was a great co-operative action in that community.

Many of these old co-operatives are still active, such as United Farmers of Alberta.

Electricity and gas distribution co-operatives have also been quite successful in Alberta. At one time, the rural electrification program carried out by the co-operatives accounted for about 90% of the electricity supplied to Alberta farmers. In 2007, rural electrification associations represented more than 45,000 electrical users in the province. In the 1990s, these co-operatives accounted for over 54% of the total sales of energy to co-operatives in Canada.

There are also co-operatives in the service sector. Communities form child care co-operatives when they want to have some control over the involvement in their children's care and education. They range in size and include pre-school co-ops, day care co-ops, baby-sitting co-ops, etc.

Clearly, co-operatives come in all shapes and sizes and are valuable to many communities across Canada. The co-operative sector has a positive impact on our economy and helps to create jobs. I urge all parties in this House to recognize the important role that co-operatives play in the economy and ensure that they continue to thrive.

In closing, it is paramount that all parties in this House co-operate to support this motion.

Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

2 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard—Verdun Québec


David Lametti LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Innovation

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to speak in support of Motion No. 100, which was put forward by my colleague, the member for Brossard—Saint-Lambert. I want to applaud my friend for the hard work she has done in regards to this motion, and add that my riding, LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, is home to many co-operatives.

I also want to take a moment to acknowledge the work previously done by our late colleague, the Hon. Mauril Bélanger. He worked tirelessly for Canada’s co-operative sector to establish the all-party caucus on co-ops. His hope was that all-party awareness will, one day, translate into full support for Canadian co-operatives across this country. This motion seeks to recognize the significant impact of Canada’s co-operative sector and take steps to ensure it continues to thrive.

Today, I want to talk not only about the success of co-operatives in this country but also to highlight ways that this business model can be used to directly address a number of important government priorities.

There are approximately 9,000 co-operatives and mutuals in operation in Canada. They exist in all provinces and territories, in urban and rural areas, and in all sectors of the Canadian economy. These flexible and innovative organizations create employment opportunities for some 190,000 Canadians.

Co-operatives can be divided into two groups. The first group consists of financial co-operatives, and these include deposit-taking credit unions, caisses populaires and mutuals involved in life, property, and casualty insurance. There are more than 650 of those co-operatives, serving over 11 million Canadians. Second, the non-financial co-operatives, which count an estimated 8,000 organizations. The second group, non-financial co-operatives, counts an estimated 8,000 organizations. They operate in all sectors, from agriculture and retail to health care and social services, from professional services and manufacturing to high-speed broadband and clean energy.

The co-operative model also has a strong track record in providing social, economic, and environmental benefits to Canadians, demonstrating that this collective entrepreneurship business model can work on behalf of everyone. It is an inclusive business model that allows citizens in communities across the country to come together to address common economic, social, environmental, or cultural needs. In essence, co-operatives are examples of democracy at work. Plus, as anyone in the co-operative sector will remind you, these organizations are incredibly resilient and often demonstrate an ability to thrive even during challenging economic times.

Further to this idea, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development has been leading the development of Canada’s Innovation Agenda. We see Canada’s co-operatives as important players in the implementation of this agenda. This agenda aims for a sustainable path to growth.

Canada is competing against leading nations in a race to grow talent, technologies and companies. At its core, the Innovation Agenda is about ensuring that all Canadians have the opportunity to benefit from a growing economy.

Whether it is about identifying ways for Canadians to acquire the skills and experience required in the global economy, harnessing the potential of emerging technologies, or encouraging more Canadians to start and grow businesses, there are a number of emerging opportunities for Canadians, communities, the co-operative sector and this government to tap into the potential of the co-operative model.

Co-operatives have obvious links to particular areas of the Innovation Agenda including clean technologies, women and youth entrepreneurship, and indigenous economic development. As well, the model itself provides important lessons on how to innovate in today’s economy. In fact, according to a 2014 study, Canada’s co-operatives are demonstrating product, process, organizational and marketing innovation at a rate higher than traditional SMEs.

Like all small and medium-sized businesses, co-operatives are fundamental to creating jobs across Canada. With co-operatives operating in a number of key areas of the Innovation Agenda, the potential exists to identify actions to accelerate co-operative economic development and job creation in key sectors such as social enterprise, encouraging a transition to a low carbon and clean economy, indigenous economic development, and women and youth entrepreneurship.

Given their proven track record and their history of innovation, not only at the community level but also on an international scale, co-operatives are well-positioned to be key players in the future of innovation in Canada. The co-operative model also has the potential to be an important lever for promoting indigenous economic development. This is because of an indigenous focus on community participation, consensus decision-making, and addressing community challenges holistically.

There are an estimated 120 indigenous co-operatives currently in operation in Canada including a large retail distribution network in the North which has expanded into multiple business lines. Given the ability of co-operatives to combine both social and economic objectives, they are also actively engaged in the development of the social innovation and social finance ssoutetrategy led by Employment and Social Development Canada.

The consultation on the development of Canada's national housing strategy has also highlighted the importance of the co-operative housing model in terms of increasing access to affordable places to live. In budget 2017, the government announced additional details about the inclusive national housing strategy, which will be a roadmap for public administrations and suppliers of housing across the country when they decide on the best way to support the renewal of housing in their communities.

I would now like to talk about some of the support the government provides to help co-operatives thrive and continue to provide important economic benefits to Canadians.

Government programming aims to ensure that co-operatives have equitable access to business supports and that they are well-positioned to contribute to business and community needs.

The regional development agencies provide financial support to co-operatives through a range of programs and services for start-up, growth, and expansion, with over $51 million provided in the last 10 years.

In conclusion, I would like to thank my colleague for coming forward with this motion and helping to shine a light on the important role co-operatives are playing in Canada’s economy. This government strongly supports Motion No. 100, and we look forward to working alongside members in the House to explore ways in which this innovative business model can help address the priorities of Canadians.

Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


Alexandra Mendes Liberal Brossard—Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of my motion is to highlight the importance of the development and implementation of a strategy to strengthen the co-operative sector, which is so important for our economic growth, as the parliamentary secretary so richly enlightened us. During the first hour of debate, I said that co-operatives are inherently innovative. They are created to meet people's needs and to serve these same people.

The flexibility of the co-operative model and its proven track record of success in creating jobs, filling market gaps, and meeting needs in Canadian communities make co-operatives an important player in long-term, sustainable economic growth.

I would like to thank all my colleagues who spoke in support of the motion, the members of all parties who told me that they would vote in favour of the motion, and all those who are calling on the government to continue to recognize the important role that co-operatives play in the Canadian economy and ensure that Canadian co-operatives continue to thrive.

I would also like to thank the co-op sector for its support. Special thanks to Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada and the Conseil québécois de la coopération et de la mutualité for their assistance along the way. I firmly believe that beyond being a model for economic growth, the co-operative sector has the potential to support a number of government priorities, including the government's inclusive innovation agenda, social innovation and finance, a transition to a low-carbon economy, and indigenous economic development. Motion No. 100 would 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 mutual companies are never imposed on communities. They are created to address common needs and are democratically accountable to their members for their own management.

It is up to MPs across party lines to give the public service a strong mandate so that this plan can take shape and become a reality.

In closing, I would like to quote my esteemed friend, the late Hon. Mauril Bélanger:

I remain committed to supporting the co-operative model as a means of mitigating the adverse effects of growing economic disparity.

The co-operative model is a proven structure that greatly empowers each member, resulting in a wonderful combination of business success and social responsibility, which plays an important role in the economy and in our communities.

I thank the hon. members for listening and for the attention they have given to this debate. I look forward to working with everyone to promote economic growth, increase our competitiveness, and create jobs.

Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Some hon. members



Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

All those opposed will please say nay.

Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Role of Co-operativesPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, April 5, 2017, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

The motion that the House do now adjourn is deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until Monday, April 3, at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:16 p.m.)