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View Dan Albas Profile
CPC (BC)
Mr. Speaker, it is a welcome opportunity to speak to this motion today. I would like to commend the member for Brossard—Saint-Lambert for putting this motion forward.
I would like to take a few moments today to explain exactly why I think this is such an important motion. In particular, I would like to focus on credit unions.
In our Conservative caucus we have a wide variety of backgrounds. To my left we have a former president and chair of a large credit union. We obviously have farmers. We have business men and women who have conducted a large amount of work in business with credit unions. I would like to focus on that end of the cooperative sphere today.
In my riding of Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, and in my former riding of Okanagan—Coquihalla as well, credit unions are often the financial cornerstone of the region. For many of my constituents, it was a community credit union that said yes to their first mortgage, to their first small business loan, to a line of credit, when some of the larger financial institutions that have international presence said, “And you are?” Now, I do not mean to suggest anything negative against Canada's larger financial institutions which are part of the cornerstone of what many feel is one of the best banking systems in the world, but the fact is, to many of my constituents, they got their first start, their first financial start so to speak, because a credit union said yes to them.
Even as I wrote this speech last Friday night, news had just spread that Valley First, which is division of First West Credit Union, donated $150,000 toward the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation. This is the same credit union that sponsors many important local community events.
In Summerland, there is a credit union that sponsors many other local events and is considered to be one of the best run credit unions in all of British Columbia. It is all of one, a single branch, but for the people in Summerland, it has been their financial and fiscal lifeline. It has helped finance the growth of Summerland since it was first founded in 1944. In fact, it is a remarkable story. Back in 1944, the Summerland & District Credit Union was founded when 10 local citizens pooled together less than $20, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Why am I raising credit unions today in speaking in support of this motion?
The short, simple answer is that credit unions need our help. They are not asking for a zero-interest loan like our friends at Bombardier. The reality is that credit unions are drowning. They are drowning in regulatory red tape and one-size-fits-all Ottawa-imposed regulation. For starters, I am sure members would know that common reporting standards and FINTRAC alone are creating massive compliance costs on credit unions. One small credit union alone told me it spends $100,000 a year on compliance costs. To a large financial institution, $100,000 is probably a drop in the advertising bucket, but for a small community credit union, it means it is literally hiring people not to serve customers but rather to serve Ottawa in filling out the required paperwork. It is a massive burden.
Now the Liberal government comes along and says it is going to change mortgage regulations. Keep in mind, I am not talking about the new stress tests. I am talking about the punitive and unilateral decision to take away CMHC insurance on refinanced mortgages.
Canadians are a savvy bunch. We understand that accessing our home equity through a refinanced mortgage is absolutely the most cost-effective way to invest in a small business, to finance home renovations, to consolidate debt, to survive a long labour lockout, to keep a family home after a divorce. Whatever the case may be, refinancing a mortgage is a cost-effective way to invest in a local economy and now, with zero consultation, the Liberal government has taken that away.
What this means is small credit unions will have to allocate more funds to cover those mortgages. In turn, it means that money will not be available to flow into other sectors of the local community lending portfolio. In turn, it means that interest rates will need to be higher.
All of this drives up costs on a credit union and ultimately its members. This is why credit unions are so greatly troubled by many of the measures that the Liberal government has put forward.
In fact, going back to the mortgages, we heard every single witness at the finance committee, including the witnesses put forward by the Liberals, agree that these would have significant negative impacts on the industry and ultimately on Canadians. They also agreed there was zero consultation on why the Liberals are adamant on implementing these punitive changes.
We had bureaucrats at the finance committee and while they could explain what the policy changes were, none of them could explain why the Liberal government wants to make these changes. I will even credit a few of my Liberal colleagues on the finance committee. When I put forward a motion to invite the finance minister so he could explain why he thinks these changes are good, they agreed with me and supported the motion. For those people less familiar with how the finance committee works, it is not every day that members of the government will agree to bring their own minister before the committee to explain himself.
That brings me back to this motion. I could continue at length on the important roles credit unions play in my riding and indeed in many ridings throughout Canada, which is why I am pleased to support the motion. I can also state that since I have assumed the portfolio of deputy finance critic, I have also heard at length from credit unions on very serious struggles they are facing, all trying to keep up with Ottawa's imposed one-size-fits-all regulatory compliance-related red tape. If we are to support this motion, and I am hopeful that all parties and all members will support this motion, then by extension we must do more to recognize the value of co-operatives. We must ensure that we listen and make the much-needed regulatory changes. These changes would not cost the taxpayer money, but they would help keep a more robust, more diverse, and more competitive fiscal sector in Canada, which is what we all believe needs to happen toward prosperity.
Before I close, I would like to briefly quote from Desjardins Group which made a presentation at the finance committee. Mr. Bernard Brun said it best when he said that the rest of the country's “financial co-operatives are an important and integral part of the Canadian financial system and that the rules need to be adapted accordingly.” I could not agree more. That is why I am speaking in support of this motion today, and I do appreciate members' time to hear my comments.
Again, I would like to thank the member for Brossard—Saint-Lambert for putting this motion forward. I believe it is a helpful reminder that we must be thinking of our local communities when we are in this place, and not necessarily allow the dictates of the politics of today to push us in a certain direction. All good things in life are upstream, and I appreciate the member's suggestion that this is one way we can make things better for co-operatives, including credit unions, right across this great country.
View Robert Aubin Profile
NDP (QC)
View Robert Aubin Profile
2017-02-13 11:32 [p.8817]
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.
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