“This truly is a sad day for Canadian democracy. It speaks volumes to the disrespect this government has for democracy and the rule of law when Prime Minister Harper personally direct these undemocratic tactics to ensure that Bill C-377 passes the Senate in order to appeal to the Conservatives’ right-wing base.” — James Clancy, NUPGE President
Ottawa (30 June 2015) — After four years of failed attempts, Conservatives finally were able to pass the anti-union Bill C-377 in the Senate today, but only after using anti-democratic tactics to rig the rules of the Senate.
The private member’s bill — entitled an Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations) — has been back and forth between the House and Senate for four years. It was the first private member’s bill to proceed to the Senate this session, and is the last piece of Parliamentary business before the Senate adjourned for summer and the upcoming federal election campaign this fall.
A partisan and political attack on the constitutional labour rights of Canadians
Bill C-377 is nothing more than a partisan and political attack on the constitutionally guaranteed labour rights of Canadians. The bill changes the Income Tax Act to make it mandatory for all labour organizations, including those regulated under provincial law, to publicly file detailed annual financial statements covering salaries, revenues, and expenses. The legislation sets a $1,000 a-day fine to a maximum of $25,000 per organization for non-compliance. It would also ensure that detailed personal financial information would be publicly available on the Canada Revenue Agency website.
Widely criticized for its high financial costs, its unconstitutionality and violations of privacy
In the four years since Bill C-377 was first introduced, it has been widely criticized by its detractors for its high financial costs, its unconstitutionality, its violations of privacy and ultimately for its lack of necessity.
The legislation has been strongly opposed by seven provinces, the federal NDP and Liberal parties, constitutional law experts, Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, the Canadian Bar Association, the NHL Players' Association, the insurance and mutual fund industry, and a long and diverse list of others in the business, financial, professional, legal, labour, and academic communities.
Conservative Senators vote to overrule the rules of the Senate
Up until June 25, the Liberals in the Senate had successfully filibustered to keep the debate going and were prepared to continue to keep the Senate held up all summer in an attempt to prevent the anti-union bill from becoming law. Their efforts were quashed late last week when Conservative Senators, acting on direct orders from the prime minister’s office, moved a motion to shut down debate and block any further motions on Bill C-377. The Senate Speaker, Leo Housakos, ruled the motion out of order as it violates Senate rules, which do not allow for the limiting of debate on a private member's bill.
Motion violates Senate rules but Conservative Senators overrule Speaker
On June 26, the Government Leader in the Senate, Claude Carignan, introduced a motion to overrule the Speaker’s decision, which passed by a 32—17 vote.
The final vote on the bill took place earlier today. It is expected that this will be the last piece of Parliamentary business in the Senate before it rises later today for the summer.
A sad day for democracy
In commenting on the passage of Bill C-377 in the Senate today, James Clancy, National President of the 360,000-member National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), stated, “This truly is a sad day for Canadian democracy. It speaks volumes to the disrespect this government has for democracy and the rule of law when Prime Minister Harper personally direct these undemocratic tactics to ensure that Bill C-377 passes the Senate in order to appeal to the Conservatives’ right wing base.”
“I believe, however, that this provides us with an opportunity to talk to Canadians and our members about how the Harper government continues to use whatever tactic it can to usurp democracy, even if it means rigging the rules to get its way," Clancy added.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 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