Brent Rathgeber Maverick Watch

The Conservative MP says he’ll vote against Russ Hiebert’s bill on union financial disclosure unless changes are made.

Unions are private clubs; they are not public institutions.  They serve only the interests of their members arguably counter to the public interest by bidding up wages.  The public has very limited access to expenditures and salaries at public institutions (Privacy Legislation prevented my quest to obtain the salaries of Peter Mansbridge, Rick Mercer and George Stroumboulopoulos).  So exactly why does the public have a legitimate interest in knowing the salary of a union President or the aforementioned Sally the Receptionist?? A very good but not easily answered question.  The proponents of C-377 argue that the tax deductibility of union dues somehow creates a public interest in what the collector of those dues does with them.  According to the theory, tax deductibility equals forgone revenue to the treasury, which makes it akin to public money and thereby creating a public right to know how the forgone tax dollars are spent.

A dubious proposition because tax deducted dollars are not public dollars; they are private dollars that the state has chosen not to tax.  Moreover if tax deductibility truly created a public interest, it would have to be more consistently applied.  As a lawyer, my law society fees are tax deductible.  Does that mean that the public has a right to know what the Law Society pays its staff??  I would argue no and certainly there is no existing obligation for the Law Society to disclose.  As a member of the club, I believe I have a right to know but do not see a similar right for non-members of the club.

For other concerns, see this op-ed by two business professors.

Mr. Rathgeber, along with seemingly every other Conservative present, voted in favour of the bill at second reading