CMC wishes to see the Government of Canada re-establish and resource a Co-operatives Secretariat, or a dedicated co-operative Centre, un der Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED). 

This Secretariat or Centre would advise the Government on, and coordinate the implementation of, policies affecting co-operatives. This Centre would also work on a federal co-operative strategy as committed to in Motion-100 (2017) as well as encourage the use of the business model for the social and economic development of Canada’s communities. It would also provide a link between co-operative enterprises and the many federal departments and agencies with which they interact. The Centre for Rural Economic Development at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) is a good example of what a co-operative Centre could be. 

The former Co-operatives Secretariat was established an successfully operated for 26 yers under Agriculture Canada / Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada between 1987 and 2013. It merged with the larger Rural Secretariat in 2012 to become that Rural and Co-operatives Secretariat. At its peak, during the Co-operative Development Initiative (2003-2013), the Co-operatives Secretariat has approximately 12 staff, with an operational budget, not including grants and contributions, between $1.1 and $1.5M per year. However, it was disbanded in 2013 as part of the Deficit Redution Action Plan (DRAP). This meant, responsibility for co-operatives file, as well as the two remaining employees, were transferred to ISED. 

Cost estimate

During the ten-year (2003-2013) of the Co-operative Development Initiative (CDI), the Co-operatives Secretariat had approximately 12 employees. Between 2008 and 2013, the salary and operational budgets were between $1.1M and $1.5M per year. Based on these numbers, a new Secretariat and Co-operative Development Intiative could represent a five-year commitment between $24M and $30M, or more. 

CMC recognizes that despite significantly diminished resources being dedicated to co-operatives since 2013, some incremental progress has been made in recent years. These positive steps include data collaboration between ISED and Statistics Canada, the training of public servants at regional development agencies and the elimination of various program eligibility issues. However, significant progress cannot be accomplished without dedicated investments by the Government of Canada and we recommend that a new Co-operatives Secretariat or Centre includes these different units. 

Different Units of the Centre

Co-operative Policy Unit

To ensure that co-operatives are considered in the development of federal policies and measures; and those co-operative enterprises have equal access to the business infrastructures the government and its funded partners provide. It could:

  • Advise the offices of the Minister of Small Busienss, Ministers responsible for the Regional Development Agencies, Export Promotion and International Trade, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and many others. This is due to the fact that co-operatives are active across Canada and are found in almost every industry. 
  • Support initiatives aimed at developing co-operatives in equity-deserving groups throughout Canada’s business ecosystem. For example, Arctic Co-operatives Ltd. and the Fédération des coopératives du Nouveau-Québec (FCNQ) are interested in collaborating with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit leaders and communities to develop and launch more Indigenous-led co-operatives. 
  • Promote collaboration amongst existing business stakeholders (e.g. Community Futures Canada, Futurpreneur Canada, Start-up Canada and the Réseau de développement Économique et d’employabilité as well as the Regional Development Agencies). This would identify opportunities, address barriers, and allow for the delivery of co-branded and tailored co-operative programs. 
  • Maintain strong rural and remote communities. More than half of non-financial co-operatives operate in three sectors: Real estate, housing and rental (33.6%), Wholesale and Retail Trade (13.6%) and public administration and other services (12.5%). Co-operatives are already crucial components of many communities. The delivery of co-operative solutions locally can help meet the goals of the Economic Development Strategy for Rural Canada and Canada’s Connectivity Strategy

Co-operative Program and Partnerships Unit

To establish and manage contribution agreements with CMC and its members. It could: 

  • Promote and measure co-operative development though a Canadian Co-operative Capacity Building Program. 
  • Encourage business conversions to co-operatives (BCC). This would help maintain local businesses and offer yet an option for retirement-aged owners who do not have a succession plan. BCCs are a tried-and-true solution for business rescue and succession in numerous jurisdictions around the world. Many jobs and potentially thousands and businesses could be kept alive if the BCC concept were broadly known among SME owners, workers, unions, and policymakers in Canada. 
  • Leverage existing sector-led co-operative development funds to provide resources and fast-track the launch and growth of co-operatives and co-operative networks in key sectors of the economy. This could include digital industries, clean technology, health and seniors’ services, early learning and childcare, natural resources, and retail. 
  • Support the BDC and help in acting on the recommendations of the BDC Legislative Review 2010-2022 regarding under-served business models. 

Co-operative Research and Statistics Unit

To provide the Government of Canada and economic stakeholders with key data points to inform policy decisions. 

  • Review and update the federal government statistics and reference tools, building on recent collaborations between ISED and Statistics Canada regarding non-financial co-operatives. 
  • Consolidate and publish data that includes financial co-operatives (Credit unions, caisses populaires and mutuals) for national statistics.
  • Collaborate on research and knowledge dissemination with academia and leverage CMC’s own comprehensive database of 7,000 co-operative enterprises across Canada. 

The impact and contribution of co-operative enterprises within various parts of our economy align closely with the government’s desire for community development for affordable living for Canadians. Co-operative enterprises offer a lower risk profile than small business ownership and are founded on principles of collective ownership, democratic governance, profit sharing and community impact.