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. The Bill returned to the Senate upon their return after prorogation in the fall of 2013 and was left on the backburner, until now.
Liberals should also be wary since unions will quickly throw their money at another party if you dare step out of line, as happened in the 2012 Ontario by-election in Kitchener-Waterloo when unions spent over $1.5 million in ads in support of the NDP campaign following a government showdown with teachers' unions. That is perhaps the most disturbing element of this big money politics: it is hard to see it as anything other than buying influence.
"Pick your battles" is a familiar refrain for anyone involved in politics, advocacy or any endeavour wherein opposing points of view will be competing for public attention. Most organizations will review issues and determine which are critical and which are not, and then fight for the most precious while conceding that others are perhaps not as important.
The legislative strategy behind Bill C-377 mirrors that behind Bill C-525, a Private Member's Bill introduced by Conservative MP Blaine Calkins, a backbencher from Alberta. This bill would make it easier to decertify unions in the federally-regulated sector and almost impossible for workers to certify a union to represent them in the workplace.
On May 31 Canadian Labour Congress president Ken Georgetti issued a press release suggesting supporters of union financial disclosure legislation currently before the Senate "cannot find a single constitutional expert who will agree that Bill C-377 is constitutional." We've received a legal opinion that says otherwise.
Dear Mr. Poilièvre: Everyone knows how little empathy the government, including yourself, has towards unions. In reality, Bill C-377 is your way of attacking a workers freedom of association. As a Senator, I refuse to take advice from someone who is against a firearms registry but is in favour of creating a registry of union data.
When the Senate returns this week, one of the major items on its agenda will be Private Member's Bill C-377, which would impose new financial reporting requirements on organized labour. With that in mind, here are five key aspects of the legislation to consider as the Senate debates the Bill and union leaders engage in a renewed propaganda campaign.
Recently the Conservative majority in the House of Commons passed a bill that targets a leading force for equality and democracy in our society. Bill C-377, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations), is designed to challenge unions' involvement in political activities and divert their resources to busy work. While they claim C-377 is a way to improve union transparency, the Conservatives have shown a flagrant disregard for openness in government affairs.
An important piece of legislation was passed by the House of Commons this week. Bill C-377, sponsored by British Columbia MP Russ Hiebert, will require unions and other labour organizations in Canada to file annual public reports detailing their financial statements, salaries paid to top employees, the amount of time spent on lobbying and political activities, and certain information about expenditures over $5,000. Regardless, union leaders will undoubtedly spend even more money to now try to defeat the bill in the Senate. All of which raises the question: why are union leaders so afraid of transparency?
The Conservative government has a disturbing habit of introducing significant changes to Canadian public policy by sleight of hand. Bill C-377 would force every labour organization in Canada to file detailed financial information. It is more about helping employers, the Conservative Party and special interest groups with close ties to them. If passed, Bill C-377 will tip the balance of labour relations in Canada.
Often the first sign of someone losing a debate is the tactics they employ. This maxim has proven true in recent weeks with the public and parliamentary debate on Bill C-377. The recent rhetoric and tactics employed by unions and their proxies in parliament, the New Democrats, have ranged from abhorrent to desperate.
Canada's union leaders are involved in an unprecedented campaign to avoid any efforts to impose transparency requirements required by Bill C-377. The real reason for the campaign against transparency is because union leaders do not want anyone to see how they are spending the $4 billion collected each year in forced contributions. If operating in a transparent manner cripples Canada's union movement, then union leaders have only themselves to blame for that demise.
Just as the 2012 budget is dubbed the "jobs and growth" budget while it slashes at least 20,000 jobs from the civil service, Bill C-377 is being presented as a measure to increase transparency and accountability, when it is nothing but an attempt at attacking and distracting a key element of civil society -- labour unions.