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Act to block the adoption of Bill C-377

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Act to block the adoption of Bill C-377


Why this is important

The Conservatives are in fact attacking the entire Canadian labour movement under the guise of promoting transparency and accountability, by forcing them to make public
very important strategic information.

Presented as a back-bencher’s bill tabled by a Member of Parliament from British Colombia, Russ Hiebert’s Bill C-377 received backing by the Conservative government. Every single one of the 154 Conservative Members of Parliament present for the second reading on March 14, 2012 voted in favour of Bill C-377. Clearly on that day Prime Minister Harper imposed a party line for the vote.

Should Bill C-377 be adopted, labour organizations - which are defined very widely in order to include federations, congresses, labour councils, joint councils, general committees or joint boards “of such organizations” as well as their affiliated unions – will be held to make public a total of 29 different kinds of information.

That ranges from the wages of elected leaders and employees of labour organizations, to contracts with suppliers exceeding 5000 $, loans, accounts receivable, loans payable, accounts payable, investments, contributions, gifts, grants, disbursements on labour relations activities, on organizing activities, on collective bargaining activities, on conference and convention activities, on education and training activities, on legal activities, on political activities and on lobbying activities, as well as the percentage of time devoted by union leaders and union employees to political activities and to lobbying activities, respectively.

Understandably, it is clear that producing all the required information for Revenue Canada will be enormously time consuming. Is it possible that the Conservatives want to detour labour organizations from their mission ? Commenting on the implementation of such obligations for American labour organizations by the Bush administration, Grover Norquist, a right-wing advocate in the United States, collaborator of Newt Gingricht, was delighted with the idea that “Every dollar that is spent on disclosure and on reporting [by labour organizations] is a dollar that can’t be spent on other labor activities”. This alignment with labour rules prevalent in the United States does not augur anything positive for the future of trade unions in Canada.

Furthermore, the Conservatives depict themselves as enthusiastic partisans of rigorous accountability, particularly when applied to someone else must we conclude. They refuse to account for the money spent by the Minister of Industry Tony Clement before and during the G8 and G20 Summits of June 2010. They refuse to account for Peter MacKay’s use (Minister of National Defense) of an army rescue helicopter to return from a fishing trip. They also refuse to disclose the wages of the employees of the Prime Minister’s Office arguing that this would violate their privacy rights.

Are the Conservatives preoccupied by privacy violations when they force union leaders and union employees to disclose their wages publicly?

Moreover, labour organizations will have to disclose information concerning every supplier dealt with, whether it be with a photocopying company, a phone company, an Internet provider or even with a law firm. In the case of law firms, this disclosure could even constitute a breach of professional confidentiality. Once again, the Conservative government does not consider these actions to be a violation of privacy.

Even if other organizations benefit from tax credits and work in similar or comparable spheres of activity, C-377 specifically targets labour organizations. But this is not the first time that the Conservatives attack labour organizations. One has just to look back on the back-to-work legislations adopted against Canada Post employees and against Air Canada employees. In the case of Bill C-377, it’s the entire Canadian labour movement that is targeted by the Conservatives.

Ultimately, the goal is the same: to weaken labour organizations, this time by forcing them to disclose strategic information that will undermine their bargaining power.

In a country that prides itself on its democracy, we most assuredly cannot accept this arbitrary and discriminatory manoeuvre.

Posted November 15, 2012
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