Just one week into the new parliamentary session and news breaks about Conservative Senators limiting debate on Private Members business, which will include anti-worker Bills C-377 and Bill C-525.
Some may recall the last time they heard about Bill C-377, Conservative Senator Hugh Segal shot holes through the Bill, questioned its constitutionality, and then made several amendments that were passed in the Senate on June 26, 2013 (see story here). Normal procedure would have sent the amended Bill back to the House of Commons, however since Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued parliament during the summer of 2013, Private Members Bill C-377 was reverted back to its original form as passed by the Conservative majority in the House of Commons in December of 2012. The Bill returned to the Senate upon their return after prorogation in the fall of 2013 and was left on the backburner, until now.
In an interesting move this past spring; Senator Hugh Segal announced his retirement from the Senate effective in June 2014 as he decided to take on the role of Master of Massey College in Toronto. With Senator Hugh Segal removed from the picture the Conservatives have decided to limit debate on Private Members Business, including anti-union Bills C-377 and C-525. But there is much more to this story.
Let's have a look at some of the possible reasons for fast-tracking this legislation: Senator Hugh Segal retires from the Senate, Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak loses the Ontario election, the effectiveness of the Ontario Working Families campaign, the number of union members who volunteered in the provincial election after Hudak threatens unions with union busting legislation, Federal Conservatives polling numbers have been dropping, and of course the lobbying of Merit Canada.
A quick search of Canada's Lobbying Registry one can see that on September 9, 2014 the President of Merit Canada met with the Leader of the Government in the Senate's Chief of Staff to discuss "Taxation and Finance" or Bill C-377. The same individual met with the Prime Minister's Office a miraculous 16 times previously to discuss the same legislation.
One has to wonder what influence this organization has in the Prime Minister's office and beyond? Merit Canada and its provincial counter parts claim to be the "leading voice" in the construction industry and represent approximately 3,500 contractors across the country. Taking these numbers into account the following comparison between Merit Contractors Associations contractors/ members and data provided by Statistics Canada, the members of Merit Canada (defined as the membership of their eight provincial organizations) only made up 1.0 per cent of the total of contractors in the eight provinces where the Merit Contractors maintained active associations.
Furthermore their highest representation of contractors in any province was in Manitoba where they represent just 2.3 per cent of all construction related contractors and a low of just 0.2 per cent of construction contractors in the Province of Ontario. (Note: Merit does not have provincial representation in Quebec or Prince Edward Island.)
Source: Statistics Canada, Table 551-0004 Canadian business patterns, location counts, employment size and North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), national industries, by Canada and provinces, semi-annual, June 2013.
The IBEW Canada's late International Vice-President Phil Flemming penned an article called "The Ugly Truth About Bill C-377" and I urge you to read the article and more specifically look at his last paragraph and the question he poses to all Canadians.