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Jul
2015
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Invasive, Hypocritical Union “Transparency” Bill Passes in Canada After Years of Political Wrangling

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On the last day of its legislative session, the Canadian Senate voted 35-22 in favor of C-377, an anti-labor bill that will unnecessarily force unions to submit to burdensome disclosure standards.  A constitutional challenge is likely upcoming.

Opposition to the bill is fierce and labor groups have promised to make every attempt to repeal the law. C-377 is not popular, but conservatives used their majority in the Senate to overrule fellow Tory Senate Speaker Leo Housakos who last week rejected a party motion to cut off debate and force a final vote.

Speaking to the CBC, Housakos seemed less than pleased with the actions of his party, although he admitted they did nothing illegal:

“The government obviously took draconian steps, in my humble opinion, in order to make sure that the legislation passes, because at the end of the day they believe once the debate is over there has to be a decision taken.  So that’s part of democracy. Is democracy always efficient? No. Is it at times messy? Absolutely.”

Senate opposition leader James Cowan said it was “extraordinary” that conservatives would overrule their own leadership.  Cowan told the CBC, “That, I think, is, if not unprecedented, highly unusual.”

Bill C-377 will require unions to disclose any transaction over $5,000, reveal the details of officers or executives who make over $100,000, and to provide that information to the Canada Revenue Agency so it can be publicly posted to the agency’s website.  Supporters argue that the bill will shed light on union finances and allow for transparency.  Opponents argue that the bill is nothing but an anti-union tool to slowly bleed out time and resources.

Former conservative Hugh Segal, who helped thwart the bill two years ago, told the Canadian press that the passage of C-377 will hurt the Conservative party in the long run:

“Why somebody would decide that kind of suicidal, ideologically narrow excess is in the national or the party’s interests or the prime minister’s interests is completely beyond me.”

Upon passage of C-377, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau pledged to repeal the law:

“I am deeply disappointed that Stephen Harper’s Conservative Senators have rammed through Bill C-377, a direct attack on Canadian workers and an attempt to weaken Canada’s labour movement.

A Liberal government is firmly committed to repealing this deeply ideological and highly partisan legislation. It serves no demonstrable public good or necessary policy objective.

As Liberals, it is our fundamental belief that unions have, and continue to play, an integral role in the growth and strength of the middle class in this country. We will work in partnership with Canadian workers to ensure they have a real and fair chance at success.”

Press Progress released a list of seven reasons that C-377 should be repealed.  Among the most convincing is that seven of Canada’s ten provinces oppose it.

To boot, the bill is likely unconstitutional, the Canadian Bar Association argued:

“The Bill appears to directly target activities protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by requiring disclosure of time spent on political activity. Privacy is recognized as a fundamental constitutional right under Canadian law, and this Bill has the potential to invite constitutional challenge and litigation.”

Further, the bill has been portrayed as an invasion of privacy and a serious threat labor relations.

The bill has also met stiff opposition from the NHL Players Association, whose leader Donald Fehr recently said of C-377:

The NHLPA also administers a licensing program on behalf of our members under which third parties are granted the right to use players’ names and/or images in products such as video games, player trading cards, and NHL team jerseys and apparel. In the ordinary course the parties with whom we work have a reasonable expectation that the terms of such agreements will not be made public, and requiring disclosure could well make it more difficult for us to conduct those negotiations, reach and administer those agreements.”

Many conservatives, including the aforementioned Hugh Segal, even view the bill as anti-conservative. This recalls right-wing politicians in Michigan, who swear by small government, enacting “big government” overreach bills that strip municipalities of local control. CUPE President Paul Moist puts it plainly:

“Bill C-377 is also, in my view, extraordinarily hypocritical, given that MPs fully paid by the public purse only publicly disclose one schedule with 14 lines of information, and the government amended a private member’s bill recently requiring disclosure of public sector salaries; only those over $444,000, quadruple the amount of the forced disclosure in Bill C-377 for labour officials, because labour dues are tax deductible.”

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