Opinion Column

Bill C-377 is 'red tape on steroids'

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

Prime Minister Stephen Harper. 

Prime Minister Stephen Harper. REUTERS

“There’s nothing democratic about what’s going on here. It’s like watching the Roman Empire collapse.” - Senator Larry Campbell on Conservative senators imposing Bill C-377

Is there anything more undemocratic than Canada’s most tainted organization – the Conservative-controlled Senate – breaking its rules and then overturning its own Speaker’s ruling, all to hurriedly impose anti-union legislation before the federal election?

That’s what happened last week with Bill C-377, an odious private members’ bill shepherded from beginning to end by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s own office, passed by Parliament’s Conservative majority and sent to the Senate for approval.

When Liberal, independent and even Conservative senators tried to delay passage of the legislation through extended debate, the Conservative majority moved a motion to end debate.

And after Senate Speaker Leo Housakos – a Conservative appointed by Harper only last month – said their motion was “inconsistent with the basic principles of our rules and practices,” they simply challenged Housakos’ ruling and voted it down.

The rules of the Senate don’t apply if inconvenient for Harper’s political goals.

But the move may have badly backfired, says the former Conservative senator who led a successful revolt against it in 2013 when it first went to the Senate.

"Why somebody would decide that kind of suicidal, ideologically narrow excess is in the national or the party's interests or the prime minister's interests is completely beyond me," Hugh Segal said last week.

So, why are the Harper Conservatives so fixated on C-377?

And why do seven provinces, every union and labour organization in Canada, the National Hockey League Players’ Association, the Canadian Bar Association, police associations and many others all strongly object?

Bill C-377 is clearly intended to tie unions up with costly bureaucratic administrative costs, though Conservatives say it is about “transparency.”

Every union expenditure over $5,000 must be publicly reported and posted online, something no other group faces – not organizations for lawyers, doctors, architects, engineers or indeed any professional association.

As York University law professor David Doorey says: “Bill C-377 is government red tape on steroids.”

Breaking their own rules and voting down their own representative to crush their opponents with red tape they profess to hate – the Conservatives are running all the red lights on their own morality.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist whose consulting firm has union, business and non-profit clients. Read his blog at http://billtieleman.blogspot.com or Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman



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