Did you know that 18 million Canadians are members of at least one of the 9,000 plus co-operatives across this country? In fact, many members themselves might not even realize that they belong to one. I am hoping that we can help change this during Co-op Week in Canada, which runs from October 13 to 19, 2013.
Co-operatives create jobs and contribute to regional economies where private businesses would not see the desired returns on equity. This is particularly true in rural areas, where often the only convenient store or gas station is a Co-op and the only financial institution in town is a credit union. Co-operatives follow a model 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.
Having been reconfirmed in my position as Co-operatives Advocate for the Liberal Party of Canada following last summer’s reorganization of responsibilities within the Liberal team, I am pleased to continue promoting Canada’s co-operatives and their values to the best of my abilities. In that role last year, I proposed to the House of Commons the creation of a special parliamentary committee to determine the needs of Canada’s co-operatives. Moreover, in response to growing Liberal pressure in Parliament and elsewhere, the Conservative government backtracked and agreed in January of this year to provide reasonable mortgages and refinancing for housing co-operatives.
Today, I am committed to continuing the fight to ensure that co-operatives are better capitalized and that the housing subsidy agreements with housing co-operatives are renewed. I am a firm believer in the value of the co-operative model and in the potential of co-operatives to grow and develop—if the playing field is level.
Co-op Week will be celebrated throughout Canada. This is an opportunity for Canadian co-operative and credit union members “to celebrate the fact that they have collectively helped to build this country and to recognize their continuing contributions at home and abroad.” A good way for all to celebrate Co-op Week would be to visit or learn about at least one co-operative in your neighbourhood or region. You might even consider joining one! By continuing to work together for the common good, we will sustain and grow the co-operative sector.
Happy Co-op Week!
Honourable Mauril Bélanger, MP for Ottawa–Vanier
Liberal Advocate for Co-operatives