C-377 passes

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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