C-377 passes

by Aaron Wherry

After two proposed amendments were passed and one defeated, C-377 passed the House last night by a vote of 147-135. Five Conservatives voted against: Brent Rathgeber, Mike Allen, Patricia Davidson, Ben Lobb and Rodney Weston.

Russ Hiebert, the bill’s sponsor, insists the bill is constitutional, but the privacy commissioner still has concerns.

We believe that the amendments to the bill are a step in the right direction for privacy. However, we continue to have privacy concerns about the proposed legislation. For example, even with the amendments, the names and exact salaries of union officials earning more than $100,000 a year would be publicly disclosed. This is less privacy protective than the public disclosure requirements for registered charities in Canada, which Commissioner Stoddart has highlighted as model for balancing transparency objectives with protection of privacy.

The commissioner’s office also passes along her statement to the finance committee and a follow-up letter to the committee from the commissioner. The full transcript of the commissioner’s appearance is here.

The NDP’s Alexandre Boulerice, meanwhile, is generally unimpressed.

New Democrats oppose the government’s concealed attempt to restrict the rights of unions and change the rules governing labour relations, under the guise of increased transparency. 

Last night, the Conservative government supported Bill C-377 from a backbencher MP, whose hidden objective is to weaken the labour movement. According to the NDP, as well as the privacy commissioner of Canada, this bill goes too far. The NDP says it goes against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and will be defeated by the courts because it violates freedom of association and the private lives of those who work for a union.

Bill C-377 will also be very costly for Canadians and require a lot of bureaucracy. The parliamentary budget officer estimates that it will cost much more than the 2.4 million dollars allocated by the Canada Revenue Agency.

The Conservatives claim they are acting in the name of transparency, but fail to mention that unions are already required to make their financial information available to their members.  This bill will result in an imbalance and benefit companies which will be able to gain access to unions’ financial information and use it to their advantage. The NDP will always encourage transparency, but opposes the Conservatives’ disguised attempt to attack the rights of unions and interfere in labour relations.

Mr. Hiebert’s speech on the bill is here. A speech from the NDP’s Wayne Marston is here.




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C-377 passes

  1. The NDP: Leading the fight against transparency.

    • or fascism.

    • I don’t think a Conservative should be lecturing a soul about transparency these days.

    • Let us know when you post your real name and tax returns, notRick.

    • You don’t know what you’re talking about. The only transparency required is for unions to be transparent to their members – which they are required to be.

      • Riiiight. Unions are transparent to their members. How much does the president of your union make? Does he/she earn an annual bonus? If so, how much? Did you get to vote on it?

        Of course you have no idea because union bureacrats take our money, send us to the picket lines on $200 per week while they sit on their a$$es collecting their cushy salaries.

        • I appreciate that you want to know this, but still don’t understand why you cannot ask about these things without legislation?

        • If you don’t know that information, which is your union is legally required to share with its members, that’s on you. If your union isn’t telling you how much the president makes and you are a member, they’re already violating existing law.

  2. Brent Rathgeber offers a great assessment of this stupid legislation:

    “As a legislator, I’m just having a difficult time determining exactly what the public interest is in this type of legislation,” he said. Mr. Rathgeber said unions are essentially private clubs like law societies or industry associations that benefit from tax deductions. “So I just cannot accept the premise that tax-deducted union dues is somehow akin to public dollars and therefore creating a public interest.”

    It’s not public interest. It’s something to make people who hate unions feel happy.

  3. Re: Rathgerber’s common sense: The unintended consequences of this spite will be the forced opening of the books and their subsequent airing on CRA’s website of just about every professional association and guild in the country. One doubts the CBA is okay with that. Or the CMA, the PEO, etc.

    • The Conservatives will never put forward legislation requiring accountability on the part of professional associations. The people who run professional associations tend to hire Conservative lobbyists.

      • Nobody is forced to belong to belong to a professional association as a precondition to work. Professional associations don’t use funds their members are forced to give them to support separtist parties in Quebec. They don’t decide to send their members to the picket lines on strike pay while they sit in their offices collecting full salaries. They don’t try and fine their members who don’t toe the official line. Not the same thing at all.

        • Of course the conservatives wouldn’t put forward such legislation. And really, I should have used the sarcasm font.

          But if labour takes the thing to court, and they will, the courts just might see an equivalency there. The OMA, for example, collectively bargains, er, negotiates, on behalf of their membership. And Professional dues are, after all, a mandatory condition of membership in that association. As for Quebec, do you know the Barreau de Quebec’s position on sovereignty? In terms of picket lines, do you not recall the head of the OMA and Sid Ryan on the steps of the Ontario leg. singing ‘Solidarity Forever’ during Rae’s tenure. I do.

          Regardless, it seems very doubtful the courts will let C-377 stand. It’s discriminatory on its face, there are serious privacy questions, and is just plain ill-considered.

        • “Nobody is forced to belong to belong to a professional association as a precondition to work.”

          Except engineers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, architects, etc….

        • First sentence: wrong. Second sentence: I bet some quick digging will find Quebec professional associations who’ve donated to the BQ or the PQ. That’s enough for now.

  4. Louis Brandeis ~ Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.

    • Only when it shines everywhere uniformly, not when it’s concentrated on one small area through the burning convex lens of selective legislation.

      In that case, it’s combustible.

  5. As a union member I’m sick of seeing union bureaucrats collecting full salaries while their “brothers and sisters” are on $200 per week strike pay. Solidarity my a$$. I was also stunned when my union supported a separitist party. When was the membership vote on that little gem? Must have missed it. Accountability my a$$. Union execs are more concerned with protecting their private fiefdoms and soapboxes than the workers they’re paid to protect. Force them to come clean on how they really spend our money.

    • Why do you need federal legislation to force anything: don’t you see annual reports, can’t members demand some accountability?

    • If you really are a union member, you can look at the books yourself. They are available to members.

  6. The story is a little misleading MP Pat Davidson Sarnia-Lambton is said to have voted against the Bill, specifically the clause which requires Unions to reveal their books. She just did not Vote on that part. It’s a big difference from standing up and voting against something and not voting. Apathy cause us not to do things and standing up and voting is us exercising our decision publically.

    James Anger Sarnia-Lambton

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