Canadian co-operative associations blast federal budget

Canadian co-operative associations blasted on Friday the elimination of a federal government program offering support to rural co-operatives and cuts to a federal secretariat that administers co-op programs.

The Canadian Co-Operative Association and the Conseil canadien de la coopération et de la mutualité said Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s decision not to renew the Co-operative Development Initiative and to reduce in size the Rural and Co-operatives Secretariat went against the government’s  “stated goals of creating jobs, promoting partnerships between the public and private sectors and fostering innovation.”  From the Lobby Monitor / The Hill Times

By Terrance Gavan – Editor – Highlands News

Grass roots organizations and co-ops are intrinsic to rural economies. If you live in rural Ontario the far reaching span of these cuts may not seem all that important.

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Lobbyists for Canada Co-ops don't like cuts. Photo Courtesy with thanks from Matt Parkes.

However, if you’ve spent time in the west and especially in prairie towns from Beausejour to Swift Current to Lethbridge you’d know that co-operative businesses and strategies form the backbone of rural life in western Canada. This is true in Quebec and the Maritimes as well.

We forget that rural economies, in these tough times, are faced with bolstering small business in circumstances that demand some empathy and  rolling lines of credit.

Agriculture needs cooperative strategies to cope with climate change, agri-business and picayune big bank policies that rally against small business.

Small town Manitoba is chock a block with cooperatives and they rely on that input and support. Because it’s support that derives from common ground. Cooperatives act to bulwark against entities – CIBC/RBC/TD et al – that are making it harder and harder for small business to borrow a buck against expected revenue. Rural Canada needs business leadership with some sense of shared destiny. Dragon’s Den ain’t gonna’ do it.

Cooperatives were the first venture capitalists and politicians like John Diefenbaker and Tommy Douglas – ironically – knew the intrinsic value of cooperative bulwarks to Bay Street.

Cuts to cooperative strategies hurt small business. And these cuts seem antithetical to the PC dream of building this economy from its current discombobulated and fractious state.

Coops and their lobby groups pointed out that these cuts are taking place, ironically, in the UN-mandated Year of the Co-operative.

“If the government is truly committed to creating jobs and fostering innovation, we can’t understand why it would cut a program that cost very little – just over $4 million a year – and made a difference in hundreds of communities across the country,” Canadian Co-operative Association executive director Denyse Guy told the Lobby Monitor last week.

Guy, who is registered to lobby, took the helm of the association this year. She told The Lobby Monitor she planned to educate MPs about co-operatives.

Canada’s 9,000 co-operatives have more than 18 million members and employ 155,000 people, the associations said.

One can’t help but speculate that this is an indicator of PM Stephen Harper’s strategy of consolidating the power where the Conservative elite like it.

Bay Street.

Terrance Gavan can be reached at gav@haliburtonnews.ca and on twitter @terrance gavan and @HighlanderToday[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]