Former Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber admits he was pleased Tory senators made "a mockery" this week of a union disclosure bill backed by the Harper government.
Rathgeber told The Globe and Mail he felt "some satisfaction" as senators in his former party pulled a similar move to the one that led him to quit the Tory caucus.
"I think it was a deliberate attempt to make a mockery of disclosure legislation," he said.
The Alberta MP famously quit the Conservative caucus earlier this month after watching members of his own party gut his private member’s bill.
Rathgeber’s legislation would have amended Canada’s Access to Information and Privacy laws to provide salary disclosure for government employees who earn as much as $188,000, the minimum salary for a deputy minister. But Tory MP Brad Butt moved an amendment to raise the figure to $444,661, the highest income a deputy minister can make.
Rathgeber said the move made his transparency bill useless and forced him to resign from the party.
"I barely recognize ourselves, and worse I fear that we have morphed into what we once mocked," he wrote in a blog post.
On Wednesday, a private member’s bill backed by Tories in the House of Commons was amended in the Senate. Bill C-377, put forward by Tory MP Russ Hiebert, would have forced unions to file detailed financial statements, making public any expenses over $5,000, along with the salaries of any union employees earning more than $100,000.
But a substantive amendment from Tory Senator Hugh Segal essentially gutted the bill by making the legislation only apply to unions with more than 50,000 members, not to locals or branches.
It also raised the threshold at which a union official would have to divulge his or her salary to $444,661.
Conservative Senate Leader Marjory LeBreton suggested the amendment was a bit of mischief of Segal's part.
"I think it was a little shot across the bow acknowledging some of the things that have been in the public lately, but that to me is Hugh Segal," she said.
Conservative Senator Richard Neufeld, who also defied the Prime Minister's Office, told the Vancouver Sun on Thursday that while he appreciates that Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed him, his job is not "just to rubber-stamp everything."
In a blog post on Friday, Rathgeber sung the Senate's praises for taking a big stick and sticking it "directly in the PMO’s eye."
Citing the inaptly named “Rathgeber Principle,” the Senate approved raising the salary bar for union disclosure to $444,000! They also raised the expense disclosure bar to $150,000. Furthermore, they made all of it meaningless by stating that the entire bill only applies to large unions with over 50,000 members. Nobody can seriously believe that salary disclosure at 444K constitutes transparency or meaningful disclosure. The Government Leader in the Senate, the Honorable Marjory LeBreton, referred to this Senatorial behavior as “mischievous.”
The renegade CPC Senators, however, were making a couple of important points. First, similar to a certain former Caucus colleague, they demonstrated that they think of themselves as something more than merely the PMO’s lackeys. Equally importantly, they demonstrated quite emphatically that a salary disclosure bar at above $440,000 is completely pointless. Certainly the Government cannot justify greater salary disclosure for private unions (with closed membership) than it can for federal public servants, whose salaries are paid for by all taxpayers.
I trust that the irony is not lost on the Prime Minister’s Office!
With files from The Canadian Press
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