One of the Harper government's assaults on progress that I missed at the time, perhaps because the mass media made little of it, was its undermining of co-ops, one of my favourite institutions. Last April it terminated the federal Co-operative Development Initiative and cut funding for the Rural and Co-operatives Secretariat.
Government provides assistance to both co-operative and competitive enterprises in various ways. Some evidence indicates that the investment in co-ops has a better payoff. According to an article in the CCPA Monitor, a Quebec study found that after five years, 62 per cent of new co-ops were still operating compared to 35 per cent for other new businesses. After 10 years, the comparison was 44 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.
But co-ops are much more than business instruments for creating jobs and providing services, although they do that very well indeed. Perhaps even more importantly, they are a major contributor to a more democratic economy. They operate on democratic principles while bringing economic control to the local level. In a world desperate for more co-operation and less competition, the Harper government is once again moving in the wrong direction.