Here at The AgriNews, we love to hear about government cuts at all levels, municipal, provincial and federal because we generally believe governments are outrageously bloated and are spending us into the poor house.
We donít acknowledge any sacred cows and feel all programs should be fair game in trying to get government spending under control... on the rare occasions when thatís attempted.
But even we wonder sometimes at the timing of some cuts when a government sets out on that course of action such as the one under the stewardship of Stephen Harper.
Case in point is the decision to discontinue the $4 million yearly Co-Operative Development Initiative under Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, which has provided financial support to new and emerging co- ops since 2003, helping to create more than 300 of them.
Co-ops are rural and agricultural mainstays instrumental in economic development and job creation. Consider for example the wildly successful St. Albert Cheese Factory, a co-op, the all-encompassing Embrun Co-Op, and EastGen, the artificial insemination co-operative. Combined, they employ hundreds of rural Eastern Ontario residents and create economic spinoffs in the multi millions.
Cutting the CDI comes at the same time the Canadian government has renewed support for the 2012 United Nations International Year of Cooperatives. Also at the same time, the government has decided to reduce in size Ė from about 100 staff to 15 Ė the Rural and Co-operatives Secretariat that administers programs related to co-ops. The optics on this one are a little fuzzy to say the least.
It all goes against to the governmentís stated goal of creating jobs, promoting partnerships, and fostering innovation, says the Canadian Co-Operative Association, which canít understand why the government would cut a program that costs very little and makes a difference to hundreds of communities across the country.
Counters Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz: "With some 9,000 co-ops, 18 million members, and net worth of $360 billion, I think co-ops have a great foundation to continue the work on their own."
That may be true. But a little financial support from the government in a worthwhile cause such as expanding co-operatives shows the government to be an active partner that cause.
Itís a solid endorsement in the eyes of observers such as the UN and international investors looking to Canada for signs of economic innovation.