C-286 is a Private Member’s Bill, tabled by Liberal M.P. Alexandra Mendès (Brossard – Saint-Lambert), to establish a framework that will promote the development of co-operatives in Canada. The bill amends the Department of Industry Act, now named Innovation, Science, and Economic Development (ISED) and other acts to specify that, within their mandates, federal ministers and agencies are to develop and promote the co-operative model in Canada.

In 2012, a Special Committee on the Status of Co-operatives, chaired by M.P. Blake Richards, made a series of recommendations. One key recommendation that was accepted and enacted by the government was to move responsibility for co-operatives from its historic home in a secretariat at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to Industry Canada (ISED). This move better represented the current diversity of businesses that are innovating with the co-operative model.

The transfer of responsibility, it was said, would ensure a single focal point in government to facilitate development, innovation and growth in Canada’s co-operative sector. The government also welcomed the opportunity to engage with co-operatives and to further review their business programming to help support the sector. This was welcome news within the Co-op Sector. Unfortunately, there was no instruction or clarity on how the relationship between the department and the co-operative sector should evolve. Now, four years later, there has been very limited movement on many aspects of the intended relationship.

C-286 is the platform upon which the government can engage in co-op development in Canada. By simply amending The Department of Industry Act, and adding the word “co-operatives” beside “small and medium-sized enterprises” it would effectively create the necessary responsibility within ISED and within Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario (FedNor). Amendments would be made to the Western Diversification Act, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Act (ACOA) and the Economic Development Agency for the Regions of Quebec Act (CED) to instruct our regional economic development agencies to promote co-operative solutions within Canadian economic development.

If we want to solve our mutual challenges together using the co-operative model, we need the Government of Canada to promote the co-operative movement, to contribute to its development and to facilitate exchange and dialogue with the co-operative sector. Bill C-286 is the proposed framework to achieving that goal.

CMC needs your support to get this Bill passed as quickly as possible. As a Private Member’s Bill, C-286 is not a government priority, albeit that Ms. Mendès is a member of the government caucus. The Minister of ISED may endorse the Private Member’s Bill, thereby making it a government priority, but apart from that possibility the Bill must wait for designated hour set aside daily for Private Members’ Business. Co-operators across Canada need to encourage their M.P.’s to support and expedite its passing into law.