Canadian Liberal Mauril Bélanger Champions Co-operative Movement

Canadian Liberal Mauril Bélanger Champions Co-operative Movement

Resilience is Canadian co-op movement's greatest strength, says MP

Mauril Bélanger has been involved with co-operatives in some way since he was about seven, so it seems fitting the Ottawa-Vanier MP would become the Liberal party advocate for co-operatives.

In an interview with ACCA News, Bélanger discussed his involvement with the Canadian co-op sector, which began about 50 years ago when he opened an account at a caisse populaire in his hometown of Mattawa, Ont. He has also lived in a co-operative-like housing environment and says he sees the business model as playing an important role in the Canadian economy’s future.

 
  Mauril Bélanger

When 2012 was designated as International Year of Co-operatives, Bélanger approached then-interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae about taking on a new responsibility. At the time, Bélanger was serving as the party’s language critic, but he had an idea for a new way he could make a difference — as Liberal advocate for co-operatives.

Co-operatives, Bélanger explained to Rae, are all over Canada and play an important role in the country’s economy.

Rae accepted Bélanger’s offer. Bélanger had one more request.

“I said, ‘I’d rather not be a critic; I’d rather be an advocate because it’s a more positive connotation,’ ” recalls Bélanger. “We talked about it around the caucus because the notion of an advocate, as opposed to a critic, needs to get a buy-in. And everybody bought in, so (Rae) appointed me in early May (2012) and I got to work.”

One of the early successes Bélanger achieved in his new role as Liberal party advocate for co-operatives was to use an Opposition day — a day in Parliament where the Opposition sets the agenda — to ask the House of Commons to appoint a special committee to examine the role of co-operatives in the Canadian economy.

The House adopted the motion unanimously.

Since coming into his advocacy role, Bélanger has visited many co-ops across the country and is advocating for capital funding for co-operatives and for the renewal of subsidies into co-op housing communities.

Bélanger has been busy getting known in the co-operative community. He was keynote speaker at the Canadian Co-operative Association’s 2013 congress in Edmonton in June, spoke at the World Council of Credit Unions conference in Ottawa in July, and has been engaging with co-operative leaders across the country.

What does Bélanger see as the Canadian co-op movement’s greatest strength?

“Resilience,” he says. “The survival capacity of start-up co-ops is twice as much as start-up businesses in the private sector, and that has been demonstrated by studies, stats and everybody accepts that,” he says.

“There’s also a willingness to take a long-term view. For instance, there are about 1,100 small communities in the country that would not have financial institutions if it were not for a credit union or caisse populaire because they are willing to accept a lower rate of return, and because they feel they’re a member of the community.”

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A version of this article was originally written for the Alberta Community and Co-operative Association (ACCA) news service. This repost, for which we received permission, follows the style guidelines of the original post. To learn more about generative newsroom options for your organization or community, please contact peter(at)axiomnews.ca.

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Deron Hamel

Deron joined Axiom News in March 2007, having previously worked as a news reporter for print, online and wire services. He serves as Axiom News’ long-term care pod lead, after several years of writing stories and editorials for our clients in that sector. An award-winning advocacy journalist, Deron has seen first-hand the strengths long-term care brings to the greater health-care sector and through his work he seeks to share successes and best practices.

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