Conservatives passed new disclosure requirements to hamper Canada’s unions
This week’s topic: Is Bill C-377 good for Canada’s union members?
Who wins this week? Columnist Kathryn Marshall and guest columnist Laila Yuile battle over the issues of the day. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org — max 150 words.
Last week, those benevolent Conservative members of Parliament bestowed an early Christmas gift on organized labour in this country — or so they would like you to believe.
Bill C-377, a private member’s bill drafted by Tory backbencher Russ Hiebert, was passed in the House of Commons and with it the requirement that unions publicly disclose how they spend their members’ dues. Detailed reports will now have to be submitted to Revenue Canada yearly — a costly venture for taxpayers and unions alike. The information will subsequently be posted online and available to the general public.
Labour Minister Lisa Raitt declared it was all out of concern for those Canadian union workers who — thanks to those altruistic Tories — will now have the information they need to make informed decisions before casting ballots in union elections. Seriously, I think I saw a tear in her eye.
Now let’s talk a little reality.
I support financial transparency in member-based organizations, in particular those that collect fees. Members should know where money is going and how it is being spent. However, I know from being in a family where nearly everyone is a unionized forestry worker, that the vast majority of unions already make their financial statements available to their members. There are even a number of provincial labour codes to support this across Canada.
Because of this, it seems to me that the Conservative government is trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. The Tories didn’t target any other associations or organizations that collect dues, such as medical associations or law societies. They only targeted unions. This bill is about two things — hampering organized labour in this country and hindering the New Democratic Party, which has always been backed by union support.
Unions are closed organizations, and therefore financial transparency should be a concern limited to members — publicly posting financial information does nothing to serve the membership. It does, however, give more than a few strategic advantages to corporations, which don’t want unionized employees, during contract negotiations and to the Conservatives, who will be able to see how the unions that support the NDP are spending their money.
Indeed, if the Conservatives are so concerned about Canadians needing the right information to make the right decisions when casting election ballots, they might want to try legislating some financial transparency of their own.
Laila Yuile is an independent writer, blogger and political commentator. You can read her blog at www.lailayuile.com.