WELLINGTON, PEI – April 13, 2012 – Just a few months into the International Year of Co-operatives, the Canadian co-op movement has just learned that Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is completely cutting its funding to the Co-operative Development Initiative (CDI), which funds the operation of provincial co-op development councils and supports hundreds of other co-op initiatives.
This news was a huge shock to Angèle Arsenault, president of Le Conseil de développement coopératif (CDC) de l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard, the provincial francophone co-op development organization. Just like everyone else, she had assumed that the new federal budget would contain some small cuts but never expected that funding for her organization would be completely eliminated. The organization’s current funding agreement expires at the end of December 2012.
“These cuts will have a direct impact on our communities through job losses and by seriously compromising the start-up of new co-ops,” she said.
Arsenault joints the representatives of other representatives of the Canadian co-op movement to affirm that this announcement runs counter to the government’s stated goals of creating jobs, promoting partnerships between the public and private sectors and fostering innovation. She adds that the announcement also calls into question the government’s support for the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives, which Canada publicly endorsed when the UN resolution was adopted in 2009. The declaration, in fact, called on governments to take measures aimed at creating a supportive environment for the development of co-operatives.
The president also considers the elimination of the CDI, which she said is a successful public/private partnership, will hurt co-operatives’ ability to leverage funds at provincial, community levels.
The CDC, which is very disappointed with the news, does not understand how the government could decide to eliminate the CDI since this program has financially supported the creation and expansion of thousands of co-ops since 2003. As well, it does not understand why the Rural and Co-operatives Secretariat, the government office that administers programs related to co-operatives, will be so significantly reduced in size.
“The cuts in the CDI program and the Rural and Co-operatives Secretariat send a very disturbing signal for all Canadian co-operatives,” said Brigitte Gagné, executive director of the Conseil canadien de la coopération et de la mutualité, which co-manages the program with CCA.
“We view this as a lack of recognition of the importance of co-operatives in job creation and economic growth in this country. We don`t understand this decision, in light of the program’s success. We are now waiting for a concrete gesture on behalf of the Harper government to show his support for the co-operative sector.”
“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,” said Denyse Guy, executive director of the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA), one of two national associations that jointly administers the CDI program on behalf of the government. “This program was a partnership between the public and private sectors; it created jobs, fostered innovation, and gave co-operatives the ability to leverage additional funds at the provincial and community levels.”
The Co-operative Development Initiative is a unique federal program devoted to co-operatives. This program, whose objective is to stimulate the creation and expansion of co-operative enterprises, has supported the creation of more than 300 new community-based co-operatives since its inception in 2003. Over the past three years, CDI has provided advice and assistance to more than 1,600 groups interested in developing co-operatives and has aided the development of 700 existing co-operatives. In several provinces, CDI provides the only funding available for the development of co-operatives.
The Rural and Co-operatives Secretariat provides an essential link between the government and the co-operative sector. Staff reductions in the Secretariat will severely affect the dialogue between Canada’s 9,000 co-operatives and the federal government. The budget cuts to the Secretariat will also have a direct impact on the promotion of the co-operative model and the coordination of federal government programs related to co-operatives.
Canada’s 9,000 co-operatives have more than 18 million members, 155,000 employees, annual revenues of more than $50 billion and assets of more than $370 billion. Canadian co-operatives are represented by two national associations, the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) and the Conseil canadien de la coopération et de la mutualité (CCCM).
On PEI, more than 900 Islanders employed by 114 co-operatives with more than $700 million in assets, meet the needs of some 87,500 members. Of this number, the CDC represents 18 co-ops that have more than 8,500 members, more than 250 employees and assets surpassing the $80 million mark.
For more information:
Conseil de développement coopératif de l’Î.-P.-É.
Canadian Co-operative Association
613-238-6711, ext. 206