Canadian report backs growth of co-op model

20 Sep 2012

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A Canadian committee on co-operatives has recommended the country's government adopt a series of measures to enhance the status of the movement and to protect jobs they create.

In a report handed to the House of Commons on 17 September, which was made up of over 60 presentations given to the committee in July, the recommendations outline how the movement needs assistance in a number of areas from the economy to capitalisation to a review of the 1998 Canada Cooperatives Act.

The committee calls on the federal government to "highlight the strategic role that co-operatives play in our economy by educating government employees in all departments, especially those in regional development offices, and the general public on the nature and benefits of the co-operative business model".

It also recommends that Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation support housing co-operatives by continuing to provide reasonable mortgage and refinancing services; and the Government of Canada explore the feasibility and cost of allowing Canadians flexibility to invest Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) funds in co-operatives.

The government should also work closely with regional economic development agencies to highlight the importance of co-operatives to Canadian economic development so they can promote the co-operative business model along with other business models, according to the report.

It further adds that the government should "review the issue of capitalisation of co-operatives, including its causes, effects, and potential solutions". Also, in consultation with provinces, territories, and the co-operative sector, the government should review the Canada Cooperatives Act to determine whether updates are advisable.

Committee chair Blake Richards (CPC-Wild Rose) said: "The sheer number and size of Canadian co-operatives make their impact on the economy indisputable. Co-operatives have proven remarkably resilient, and they are a key contributor to Canada's economic recovery."

Canada’s two national co-operative associations, Conseil canadien de la coopération et de la mutualité (CCCM) and the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA), supported the report’s recommendations.

Denyse Guy, Executive Director of CCA, said: "It is clear that the committee was listening carefully to our presentations, and we would like to thank them for all their hard work on this report. We are very pleased with the recommendations."

"We are very happy that the parliamentarians heard our call for a renewed dialogue between the government and co-operative enterprises," said Brigitte Gagné, Executive Director of CCCM. "We hope the committee's recommendations will be implemented quickly, particularly during these uncertain economic times."

The two organisations also back the recommendation that the government consider consolidating federal responsibility for co-operatives under a suitable department, such as Industry Canada. Responsibility for non-financial co-ops currently lies with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Mr Bèlanger, Liberal Advocate for Co-operatives, explained there was still a way to go: “Despite strong balance sheets, co-ops, especially new co-ops, face some significant challenges capitalising themselves and there is clearly a role for the federal government here. I strongly encourage all Parliamentarians to read the committee’s report and learn more about the success and challenges of the co-operative sector.”

Picture: Denyse Guy and Brigitte Gagné.

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