Letterhead


Remember Bill C-377 when you vote Oct. 19

The Conservatives have attacked unions many times during their nine years in power, but one their most odious measures was Bill C-377, which passed just before Parliament adjourned for the summer and election campaign.

The bill, proposed privately by MP Russ Hiebert but supported by the party, imposes financial reporting rules on unions that don't apply to other organizations, particularly groups aligned with the Tories' thinking, including employer groups that lobbied for this bill.

The bill would require unions to disclose any transaction of more than $5,000 to the Canada Revenue Agency, which would post the information on its website. The public posting could cover to anyone who receives payment from a union, including contractors hired to do work. Unions would also have to disclose any executive or officer who earns more than $100,000 and publicly explain the details of their spending on political activities.

According to an article on rabble.ca: "Unions, associations, and even district labour councils, will have to give detailed reports of their assets and liabilities as well as recording all expenses of $5,000 or more, including who received the payment and why."

Opponents of the bill include the Canadian Bar Association, the National Hockey League Players' Association, the association representing police unions, the federal privacy commissioner, Canadian Bar Association, the insurance and mutual fund industry and seven provinces.

Opponents argue the bill is an invasion of privacy for anyone caught in its broad reporting requirements. It's going to cost the Canada Revenue Agency more to handle the increased number of disclosures.

The Canadian Labour Congress has estimated setting up this system will cost Canadian taxpayers $32 million to $45 million per year.

The parliamentary budget officer estimates it will cost much more than the $2.4 million allocated by the CRA

Whatever the actual figure, the new law will be costly for taxpayers and for unions (costly for unions to comply, and costly -- fines of $1,000 a day and up to $25,000 a year -- for non-compliance, according to rabble).

Ontario Federation of Labour President Sid Ryan said the new law will force unions to hire auditors and bookkeepers that aren't necessary. Union books are already open to the membership.

Provinces say the bill infringes on their labour jurisdiction.

The Canadian Labour Congress says: "Bill C-377 infringes (on) Canadians' freedom of association and is contrary to Section 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. ... Bill C-377 contravenes federal and provincial privacy legislation, and singles out and discriminates against unions compared to other organizations similarly treated in the Income Tax Act."

NDP Labour Critic Alexandre Boulerice said when the bill was first introduced in 2012: "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 and Liberals have said they'll repeal the bill.

(Information gathered from Canadian Press stories, stories and columns on Huffington Post and rabble, and news releases by the Canadian Labour Congress, Ontario Federation of Labour and federal NDP, plus others.)

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