Bill C-377: unnecessary, undermining and undemocratic | National Union of Public and General Employees

Bill C-377: unnecessary, undermining and undemocratic

"Our message remains clear. This bill is unnecessary, undemocratic and it undermines labour's relationship with employers. It shouldn't see the light of day." — James Clancy, NUPGE National President.

Ottawa (23 Sept. 2014) — After the gutting of Conservative Member of Parliament Russ Hiebert's private member;s bill by both Conservative and Liberal Senators in the spring, the Conservative government is taking another shot at Bill C-377,  An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations). 

Despite outcry from professional organizations, labour, and the opposition parties, the Conservative government is determined to pass the legislation in a hurry. 

Bill C-377 back in the Senate for debate

In June 2013, Liberal Senators joined forces with 16 Conservatives to amend Bill C-377, citing concerns that it is unconstitutional, violates privacy and is undemocratic. The bill was sent back to the House of Commons, but the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament before it could be considered. Following prorogation, as per legislative rules, the proposed bill returned to the Senate in its original form to start the process all over again. 

As the Senate begins debate on the bill once again, Conservative Senators are moving to limit debate on private member's bills, no doubt in a concerted effort to quickly pass the bill, without amendments.

Opposition to Bill C-377 hasn't gone away

"This bill, still in its original form, contains the exact same language the Senators threw out over a year ago," says James Clancy, National President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE). "Senators amended the bill because of the severe concerns around its unconstitutionality, its lack of democracy and its violation of privacy rights. None of that has changed. It needs to be thrown out, once and for all."

"Now with the clock ticking down to the 2015 election, the government is bent on rushing this flawed bill through to appease its anti-union Conservative base," continued Clancy. "Our message remains clear. This bill is unnecessary, undermines labour's relationship with employers and is undemocratic. It shouldn't see the light of day."

Hugh Segal's 8 reasons to kill anti-union bill

The Broadbent Institute has summarized now-retired Conservative Senator Hugh Segal's opposition to Bill C-377, taken from the Senate debates, listing the top 8 reasons the Conservatives' anti-union bill should not be brought back from the dead. 

1. It's unconstitutional:

The bill in its drafting, if not in its intent, had serious and, in the view of the vast majority of witnesses, fatal flaws as to the constitutional violation of sections 92 and 91 of the British North America Act, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, freedom of speech, expression and association as protected by that very Charter of Rights and Freedoms....

The bill before us is using the Income Tax Act to try to avoid a constitutional challenge before the courts, and that is not going to fly. One of the most important roles of the upper chamber in a confederation is to amend and even prevent legislation that would directly interfere in our constitutional provisions in Canada.

2. It treats unions like they're under federal jurisdiction. They're not. They fall under provincial jurisdiction:

The bill in its drafting, if not in its intent, had serious and, in the view of the vast majority of witnesses, fatal flaws as to the constitutional violation of sections 92 and 91 of the British North America Act, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, freedom of speech, expression and association as protected by that very Charter of Rights and Freedoms. - See more at: http://www.broadbentinstitute.ca/en/blog/his-own-words-hugh-segal-bill-c...
The bill in its drafting, if not in its intent, had serious and, in the view of the vast majority of witnesses, fatal flaws as to the constitutional violation of sections 92 and 91 of the British North America Act, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, freedom of speech, expression and association as protected by that very Charter of Rights and Freedoms. - See more at: http://www.broadbentinstitute.ca/en/blog/his-own-words-hugh-segal-bill-c.... It treats unions like they're under federal jurisdiction. They're not. They fall under provincial jurisdiction:

"As a Conservative, I am first a "decentralist" who respects provincial autonomy within Confederation. Bill C-377 would subject unions to federal authority, when their activities clearly fall under provincial jurisdiction."

3. It would violate the privacy of millions of Canadians:

"The key flaws of the bill are its invasion of privacy of up to 12 million Canadian mutual fund owners who will be swept into the disclosure and labour trust provisions of the bill which, whatever the intent, were badly crafted, along with pension recipients and joint union-employer pension or health insurance arrangements that exist broadly. Why should these innocent bystanders, who have paid into plans which may pay out more than $5,000 in any one year, be victimized by having their privacy invaded? What justice does this serve?"

4. It would tilt the advantage towards employers during negotiations:

"The bill before us also violates solicitor-client privilege and forces upon unions in Canada disclosure levels far lower than the corporations, whether public or private or government employers with whom they might negotiate. This will actually worsen labour relations in Canada, slow economic development, and upend the balance between free collective bargaining, capital investment and return, which are vital to a strong and free mixed-market economy. As a Conservative, I oppose the upending of this balance.

The spirit of the amendment I shall propose is straightforward. Freedom to invest, to grow, to build, to expand market share and to innovate are central to a strong entrepreneurial economy based on risk and productivity, sound human resource management and open regulation as sparse and minimalist as possible. That freedom cannot be exclusive or exist in a vacuum. It must coexist with the rights and freedom of association, freedom of speech, free collective bargaining, the right to organize, and the rights of both the employer side and the employee side to maximize its opportunities and aspirations through free and open negotiation.

Honourable senators, this bill violates that balance."

5. It's a declaration of war on workers: 

"Conservatism in the Canadian Tory context is not about the protection of class or the oppression of labour by capital or capital by labour; it is about a freedom tied to mutual respect, whatever legitimate disagreements, between all the participants in the mixed free-market system. This bill before us, whatever may have been its laudable transparency goals, is really — through drafting sins of omission and commission — an expression of statutory contempt for the working men and women in our trade unions and for the trade unions themselves and their right under federal and provincial law to organize.

It is divisive and unproductive."

6. It begs the question: who's next?

"If this is to apply to trade unions, why would it not apply to rotary clubs, the Fraser Institute, Christian, Muslim and Jewish congregations across Canada, the Council of Chief Executives, local car dealers or the many farming groups, like the cattlemen's associations or the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, all of whom do great work? How about local constituency associations, food banks, soup kitchens, or anglers and hunters clubs?"

7. It's singles out unions for scrutiny:

"Proposed subparagraph 149.01(3)(b)(ix) lists the need to declare what is spent on labour relations activities, with no concurrent disclosure imposed on the management side. How about a law that forced my political party to disclose its campaign, travel, research and advertising budgets to the Liberal Party of Canada or to the NDP two weeks before the election was called?

Perhaps Coca-Cola should be forced to disclose to Pepsi its marketing plan and expenditures over $5,000.

How about the Montreal Canadiens having to tell the Boston Bruins whether their coach spent more than $5,000 on dinner for their team and where they ate in Boston before the game?

Honourable senators, this bill is about a nanny state; it has an anti-labour bias running rampant; and it diminishes the imperative of free speech, freedom of assembly and free collective bargaining."

8. It makes you wonder if haggling labour unions is the best use of the Canada Revenue Agency's time?

"My colleague from Prince Edward Island, Senator Downe, has spoken eloquently about the need to work harder on tax evasion. Do we want to take people who might be working on tax evasion and have them assess which union local bought a new boiler for its headquarters? That is what this bill would produce ...

Have we decided that CRA has lots of employees with little to do? When did that meeting happen? Who came to that conclusion? To manage the new nosey mission, CRA would need new employees and up to $2.5 million in operating funds, plus an extra $800,000 a year. That is CRA's own estimate. The Parliamentary Budget Officer says the number will be much higher."

More information: 

Legal experts say Bill C-377 is unconstitutional: Bill promoted by well-connected Conservative insiders

Broadbent Institute

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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