On Wednesday, April 5 the Government of Canada unanimously accepted Motion M-100 signalling support for Canada’s co-operative sector.

What is Motion M-100?

Motion M-100 is a request that was tabled in the House of Commons by the member of parliament for Brossard – Saint-Lambert, Alexandra Mendès, on December 1, 2016. The motion calls on the Government of Canada to formally recognize the critical role and successes of the co-operative sector in Canada’s economy and to develop a strategy that will support co-operative businesses across the country. More specifically the text of the motion states:

“That, in the opinion of the House, the government should recognize the important role co-operatives play in the economy and ensure that they continue to thrive by taking concrete steps such as: (a) developing, in consultation with provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous communities and the co-operative sector, a federal co-operative strategy to promote and support Canada’s co-operative sector; and (b) providing periodic progress reports on pre-established goals and targets.” – Government of Canada

Any strategy that develops out of this motion will likely build upon a 2012 report by the Special Committee on the Status of Co-operatives, which was led by Banff – Airdrie MP, Blake Richards. The report focused on the sector’s financial issues, concerns with capitalization and regulations.  The report also highlighted the role of co-operatives in Canada’s economy stating:

“The strategic role of co-operatives is therefore to obtain goods and services and to meet the needs of a given region’s population in sectors where contributions by governments and private corporations are lacking. This is particularly the case in areas of activity where the government deems that private initiative is the best way to supply the goods and services demanded by the population but where conventional private businesses are not engaged because they foresee no commercial profitability. In these circumstances, co-operatives may be viewed as an alternative force for economic development. The case of gas co-ops in Alberta, which today manage more than 100,000 km of gas pipelines, is a striking example of a situation in which the co-operative movement has created wealth in an area of activity where private businesses were not involved because of the low profit potential of available projects.”

What does this mean for co-operatives?

It’s too early to tell what this motion will lead to in terms of government policy or programming. Motions and strategies often take time to produce tangible results, but they do generate awareness among the public. For example, the 2012 report recommended that responsibility for co-operatives be moved from the department of Agriculture and Agri-foods to Innovation, Science, and Economic Development (then called Industry Canada) to reflect the sector’s diversity. This recommendation created a change in the way government and ground-level government offices talked about business and economic development. Co-operatives were listed alongside other business models including sole proprietorship, partnership and corporation. A big win for the sector and a clear signal that co-ops have a key role to play in economic development.

A new strategy aimed at supporting the co-operative sector can build upon a renewed awareness of the versatility of the co-operative business model. The products of this strategy will be determined in consultation with provincial, local, Indigenous governments and the co-operative sector. It’s possible this motion could translate into support for developing new co-operative businesses and helping existing co-ops thrive.

Why Co-operatives? Why Now?

If you read the government’s most recent budget or our blog on Budget 2017, you know that the government’s vision for the economy is one that is united around the need for innovation to remain competitive in global markets. Co-operatives are no exception to this vision. As the 2012 report points out, co-operatives fit where “contributions by governments and private corporations are lacking.” To ensure no one is left out of Canada’s innovative agenda, different business models are needed for widespread innovation across the economy regardless of geography or social characteristics.

Motion M-100 proves MPs from all political parties recognize the importance of co-operative businesses in their constituencies and the Canadian economy. The unanimous support for this motion reiterates that co-operatives are a different – and sometimes better – way of doing business.

Interested in learning more about co-operatives? Give us a call.