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 economyharnessing the potential of emerging technologies, or encouraging more Canadians to start and grow businessesthere 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 strategy 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.