Edmonton - The speedy passage of Bill C-377 is evidence that the legislation is not about transparency, but about punishing unions, according to labour activists.
The private members bill brought forward by Tory backbencher Russ Hiebert imposes expensive and onerous accounting requirements on unions, pension funds, and other professional organizations. It was rushed into the legislature for a third vote on Wednesday, Dec. 12.
“All Canadians should be concerned about this piece of legislation,” Alberta Federation of Labour president McGowan said. “Whether you’re union or non-union, all working Canadians benefit by having a strong labour movement around to fight for good wages, good benefits, quality public services, and safe workplaces. All Canadians, union or non-union, benefit when there’s someone there to stand up for the little guy and stand up to big corporations with deep pockets.”
Last week in parliament, debate on Bill C-377 continued beyond the normally-allotted one hour of debate time for a private members bill. The bill would have been stalled at second reading, but in an unusual move, MP Earl Dreeshen gave up the time that was allotted to his private-members bill to allow C-377 to proceed this week.
“The surprising haste with which Bill C-377 was passed is an indication that the Tories didn’t want to subject it to the type of scrutiny the matter deserved,” McGowan said. “We’ve known all along that this bill isn’t about transparency, it’s about silencing those who would dare to criticize the regressive, unCanadian agenda of the Harper government. If it was about transparency, they would have passed the bill in a transparent manner.”
Although Bill C-377 was opposed by all parties other than the Conservatives, the bill passed by a margin of 147 to 135 votes, with five Conservative MPs dissenting from their own party.
The Canada Revenue Agency has said that it will take until 2015 at the earliest to implement and to put into place accounting measures to collect and distribute the information required by the bill. According to independent estimates, administration of the bill will cost taxpayers upwards of $20-million dollars.
“The bill that they passed so hastily is badly written, poorly thought-out, and won’t survive a challenge in the courts,” McGowan said, noting that the bill has come under fire from the Canadian Bar Association, other professional organizations, pension fund managers and the Canadian privacy commissioner. The reporting requirements are far more onerous and expensive than charities or corporations. Not even governments are subjected to the same level of public reporting. “Public policy should be used to promote and enhance the public good, not as a tool to punish, harass, intimidate or weaken individuals or groups that don’t agree with the government. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Bill C-377 does. It’s an abuse of government power and has no place in a democratic country like Canada.”
McGowan added that when the bill goes to the Senate early in the New Year, he hopes the upper house will take a good look at the legislation and quash it.
“Although there is currently a 60-person Conservative majority in the 105-person senate, the body has in the past shown independence and provided Canadians with the ‘sober second thought’ that is seriously needed in this case,” McGowan said.
AFL President Gil McGowan will be available to take questions today from noon - 1:00 pm at the:
10512 – 122 Street
Canada T5N 1M6
or by phone at 780-218-9888-30-
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour at 780-218-9888 (cell)
Olav Rokne, AFL Communications Director at 780-289-6528 (cell) or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.