National Congress and AGM of Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada
The Honourable Bardish Chagger, PC, MP
Minister of Small Business and Tourism
June 21, 2017
Check Against Delivery
Good evening. Thank you, Doug [Potentier, President, Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada], for that kind introduction.
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great pleasure for me to be here tonight to join you in celebrating Canada 150 and the important role co-operatives and mutuals have played in shaping our history.
At the very beginning of our country, it was farming and financial co-ops that were instrumental in the settling of Western Canada. They enabled communities to come together and to work together—to invest, grow and share their proceeds among themselves.
The Desjardins Group, founded in 1900 in Lévis, Quebec, has today grown to be North America’s largest association of credit unions.
Housing and worker co-ops have helped residents and workers across Canada create the kinds of communities and businesses that are focused on serving the collective interest of all members.
Co-ops come in all different sizes and are present in virtually every sector of the economy.
And I would note, as the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, that nearly 80 percent of them are also small businesses.
Regardless of their size, their contribution to our economy is significant.
We know that in recent years, they have typically created jobs faster than the broader economy and now represent about 4 percent of all jobs in Canada. These are well-paying middle-class jobs.
And they contribute billions annually to our GDP.
What makes co-ops and mutuals special is that they are focused on building values-based, community-owned alternatives to conventional business.
As our Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, has said, “Our government—like co-operatives—believes an economy should work for everyone.”
I was very happy to see the House of Commons unanimously adopt Motion M-100, introduced by my colleague Alexandra Mendes, on April 5.
This motion recognized the importance of co-operatives to our economy and to our society, and it was great to see the entire House of Commons united in agreement on that point.
We think that the federal government can do more to support co-ops and mutuals. And I I want to assure everyone here this evening that my department is ready to meet the challenge.
Motion M-100 is the culmination of the work of my dear friend and colleague, the late Mauril Bélanger.
Nobody in Parliament did more to advocate for co-operatives or raise awareness of their importance.
Whether it was his frequent travel across the country, speaking at conventions and meetings like this in cities large and small…
Or his leadership in creating a national multi-party co-operative caucus in Parliament…
Or the fact he became almost universally known as the Advocate for Co-ops…
Mauril showed great leadership on this issue—on your behalf—in a way that had not been seen since the 1970s.
And he delivered.
Now it is our collective responsibility to work together to build on his legacy and continue to make Mauril proud.
I want to leave you with a quote from Mauril. He said: “I believe we need to apply the model offered us by the co-operative sector to the business of the nation. We should be partners, not enemies, collectively invested in making Parliament work for the benefit of Canadians.”
As the Government House Leader, I have thought regularly about his words. I agree. We all can learn from the approach and the principles that co-ops and mutuals represent.
By working together, we can deliver results for Canadians.
We can ensure that the next 150 years for co-operatives and mutuals will be as meaningful and transformational for Canada as the proud history of the last 150 years.
Thank you for having me here tonight.
I wish you all the best, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your evening.
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