Mr. Speaker, I want to start by saying that I cannot imagine any member of Parliament opposing this morning's motion, particularly if that member is from Quebec.
I will not claim that co-operatives were our brainchild and ours alone, but allow me to indulge in some nationalistic pride and say that Quebec has a significantly higher percentage of co-operative enterprises than any other province or territory in every sector across the board.
One well-known example is, of course, Desjardins, but within that model, I would like to draw the House's attention to what we call the school savings bank. From the time they start school, our children can deposit money in the school savings bank. This is their introduction to the co-operative model and that whole sector of the economy. In my day, kids could even deposit pennies. Every deposit, no matter how small, contributed to kids' financial literacy.
At the other end of the spectrum, many funeral co-operatives have sprung up in recent years. This means that the co-operative movement follows us from the cradle to the grave, so to speak, and in all sectors of the economy. There are university co-operatives, agricultural co-operatives, and health co-operatives. Basically, in every economic sector of our society, there is room for a co-operative economy.
This is particularly true in the social economy. We have an obligation to show solidarity and develop many, many co-op-based institutions. There is really no good reason to oppose this motion.
However, I do have one small reservation. Members who have been here for more than two elections will recall very clearly the tremendous amount of work Mauril Bélanger did on this file. I would also like to remind members of the huge amount of work done by one of our NDP colleagues during the 41st Parliament. Hélène LeBlanc worked very hard to advance the co-operative movement.
My only reservation is that we are debating a motion here today rather than any concrete application in legislation, such as the budget bill, for example, which will be introduced soon.
Let us look at the motion: the text of the motion recommends that the government recognize the important role co-operatives play in our economy and ensure that they continue to thrive. It would be hard to be against that. To achieve this goal, the motion calls on the federal government to develop a co-operative strategy with all the provincial and territorial partners. Finally, the motion proposes that the federal government provide periodic progress reports on goals and targets reached. It would hard to go against these principles. We would just like to see the machine speed up a bit.
Although I support the principle behind the motion, the recommendations are so vague and, as I was saying, so imprecise and repetitive that any tangible impact they might have will result only from the Liberal government's political will. Let us hope the will is there. I have no doubt about the substance of the motion, but as for the schedule, that remains to be seen. We will ensure that the Liberal government effectively keeps this promise.
For those watching our debates, let us reiterate that co-operatives are organizations where a member is both owner and client. Other than their sector, co-operatives have many things in common, including the democratic power of their members and their heavy involvement in their community. Co-operatives also share other commonalities with the NDP. In fact, the fundamental values of the co-operative movement are similar to those that define our policies, namely to work together to build equity between citizens and establish mutual trust.
The NDP has always advocated for co-operatives because they are resilient in times of economic crisis. Co-operatives are resilient because their business decisions are directly tied to their economic and social impact on the community in which they are based.
According to a study by Quebec's former economic development, innovation, and exports department, the survival rate of co-operatives is almost double that of conventional businesses.
I will read a quote by Bryan Inglis, vice-president of Co-op Atlantic’s Agriculture Division:
Due to these economic realities, we believe that cooperatives can play an important and strategic role. Given that cooperatives are enterprises that seek to meet member and community needs, which can be both economic and social, they're ideally positioned to meet the needs of both rural and urban communities. When conditions worsen, citizens look for opportunities to work together to come up with workable solutions.
Co-operatives are also vital to job creation. In Quebec, between 2000 and 2010, jobs in the co-operative sector increased by 25%, while jobs in the overall economy increased by less than 10%.
The co-operative movement also generates thousands of jobs across Canada. Over 155,000 people actively participate in this movement.
What is more, it is important to note that co-operatives are often great financial successes. According to a federal government study, non-financial co-operatives reported a total volume of business of $39.6 billion in 2012, which is an increase of 3% compared to 2011.
It is not just a small number of shareholders who reap the benefits of the co-operative movement's success. It is the communities being served by co-operatives.
As I was saying earlier, Quebec is seen as a champion of the co-operative movement, and I am proud to be part of it. There is no doubt that the co-operative movement has shaped our history. More than 20 years ago, the Quebec government established a co-operative investment plan that has helped many co-operatives get off the ground and flourish.
This political will has generated $393 million in new investments in co-operatives. Today, more than one million Quebeckers are members of a co-operative, and this sector employs more than 43,000 people. One in eight Quebeckers directly participates in the development of the co-operative sector.
When it comes to Quebec co-operatives, Mouvement Desjardins stands out, although, as I mentioned earlier, the co-operative movement is now active in all economic sectors. In Quebec, 70% of the population is a member of a Caisse populaire Desjardins and that includes me.
The Mouvement Desjardins was founded in 1900 by Alphonse Desjardins. At the time, traditional banks only lent money to business people, industrialists, and wealthy families. The working class only had access to loan sharks, which charged prohibitive interest rates. To address this injustice, Alphonse Desjardins created a system where the working class became its own banker. Mouvement Desjardins has been acknowledged as a major builder of Quebec's economy.
Although co-operatives play a vital role in the economy, the federal government has shown little interest in them since the 2010 forum on co-operatives. I find it interesting that the motion calls on the federal government to recognize the important role co-operatives play, as though that were not yet proven. What the co-operative movement needs is concrete measures to help it sustain its growth and keep providing services to communities.
That is why the NDP is demanding that the federal government implement tax advantages to help co-operatives thrive. That is a meaningful measure that could be introduced as early as the next budget. It is in keeping with the premise of the motion, but it goes further still.
For such measures to be as effective as possible, the Liberal government should also improve access to information about co-operatives across the country. Once the federal government has properly identified the needs, it will be able to target them better.
In conclusion, I would like to point out that, in the previous Parliament, the Liberal Party moved a motion calling for a special committee to study the importance of co-operatives. The committee's report, published in 2012, did a good job of proving their economic importance, and the Liberal Party issued a supplementary opinion, which I do not have time to quote, unfortunately.
To sum up, I will obviously be voting for the motion in the hope that we begin to see its impact as soon as possible with respect to certain bills.