Mr. Joe Preston chaired the 9th meeting of the Co-op Caucus. The guest presenting was Mr. Mitch Davies, Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Sector, Industry Canada (IC).

Mr. Davies began his presentation by pointing out that it has been a year since IC made the very first presentation to the All Party Caucus on Co-operatives. His presentation was going to be an update on the four point action plan that had been detailed at that time. The four points of IC’s Action Plan responded to the Special Committee’s recommendations. The objectives the plan was to get to know the sector better and tell them more about IC in return. It was also a plan to validate that existing federal programs and services were co-op friendly and to put in place structures for ongoing collaboration.

IC met with over 100 co-ops since taking over the co-op mandate from Agriculture and Agri-food Canada. They have also founded a federal committee to discuss the co-op file.  Members include ESDC, CMHC, Agriculture Canada, BDC and the six Regional Development Agencies.

In addition, they also formed a Federal, Provincial, Territorial-working group to share information. Mr. Davies emphasised that IC was pleased with their progress to date.

Mr. Davies explained that this work continues as they try to integrate co-ops into IC as well as into the whole of government. He provided concrete information on how Industry Canada is supporting co-operative projects in Canada. “Since 2009 ESDC, IC and the RDA’s have provided over $100 million towards co-operatives” said Mr. Davies. Some examples would be a FedNor contribution to eat local Sudbury co-operative, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, a $1 million partnership with Federated Co-operative as well as financial support from the Economic Development for Quebec Regions (CED) for the International Summit on Co-operatives.

Mr. Davies went on to highlight how IC was looking at collaborative, value added research on co-operatives. An example cited was that co-ops have been added to the Small Medium Enterprise (SME) survey, the results of which will provide a better picture of how co-ops compare to other SME’s in the country. He also pointed out highlights from national statistical information collected in the recently published 2009-2010 survey.

The ensuing discussion with MP’s centered almost entirely on sources of capital for the co-op sector. As IC is responsible for the BDC, an update on their interest in the Canadian Co-operative Investment Fund (CCIF) was requested.