Top 5 Reasons Why Bill C-377 is Bad for Our Members & Canadian Taxpayers
December 17, 2012
On December 12 Stephen Harper’s Conservatives passed Bill C-377 which will require Canadian unions to publicly disclose detailed financial information. On the surface, the bill purports to be about transparency, but since most unions already must file audited financial reports with provincial labour boards (in 7 out of 10 provinces, including B.C.) C-377 is really about burdening unions with onerous paperwork far beyond what is required of other organizations.
Here are the top 5 reasons why Bill C-377 is bad for you and all Canadian taxpayers:
- It will draw staff time and financial resources away from our members
Union staff will have to time-track and report to the federal government all facets of their work including bargaining, training and education, organizing, grievance handling, labour relations activities, lobbying, conventions, legal activities, etc. Unions will have to file detailed financial reports with the Canadian Revenue Association. All of this considerable administration will draw MoveUP staff time and financial resources away from our core mandate – serving you, our members.
- It will cost Canadian taxpayers a lot of money
The Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) estimated the legislation would cost over $20 million to implement and almost $4 million annually do maintain. But that was counting for reporting from 1,000 labour organizations. C-377 includes every union and their locals in the country – that totals about 25,000 labour organizations. In the U.S. the department that administers similar but less onerous reporting had a budget of $41.3 million to track 26,000 unions. (The U.S. legislation also asks for employer side reporting. C-377 does not).
- It’s an invasion of privacy
C-377 will make the CRA publicly post detailed financial information, including the names of companies and individuals paid over $5,000 by a labour organization cumulatively in a year, including legal payments not covered by solicitor-client confidentiality. Canada’s privacy commissioner has said that there are privacy concerns and that the bill oversteps its stated objective.
- Experts say it may not be constitutional
The Canadian Bar Association said: “Any legislation requiring public disclosure of salaries and other personal information of employees of independently governed organizations should be carefully considered … privacy is recognized as a fundamental constitutional right under Canadian law, and the Bill has the potential to invite a constitutional challenge and litigation.”
- It’s not about the public interest, it’s about politics
This bill uses government resources to attack organizations the Conservatives view as political enemies. No corporation, charity or special interest group, such as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation or the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, is subject to the kind of financial reporting that this bill dictates for unions. Doctors, lawyers, accountants and several other professions deduct their association dues from their income tax. But C-377 won’t apply to them.
Unions like MoveUP are answerable to our members. We publish audited financial reports in our Local Voice magazine every summer. Our Executive Board and Executive Council – elected by you – go through our budget line item by line item at each meeting. We are accountable and democratic. Why should an organization funded by, run by and accountable to its members be forced to publically disclose its finances and report every aspect of its business to the federal government?
Several of our members lobbied Conservative Members of Parliament against C-377. Despite meetings locally and in Ottawa, all but five Conservative MPs voted for the bill.
Please read the links below to learn more about the impact of C-377.
Canada’s labour movement will likely work together to mount a court challenge to C-377 in the coming months. The bill now moves to the senate. We may call on you for your help to put pressure on Senators or your MPs. We will keep you informed of any developments.
- Toronto Star: MPs clash over Bill C-377 to force public disclosures by labour unions
- Globe and Mail: Union bill passes, but privacy commissioner says it still goes too far
- Canadian Bar Association urges Parliament not to pass Bill C-377
- Macleans: C-377 passes
- Prof Bill Doorey: Bill C-377: The Conservatives’ Private Members Bill on Union Transparency
- Ken Georgetti in the Huffington Post: Bill C-377 a.k.a. The Expensive, Unfair to Unions Bill
- OpenParliament.ca details of Bill C-377, amendments and the vote
- MoveUP’s Summer Local Voice with Audited Financial Statements (scroll to the end of the document – the Local Voice can also be accessed off the moveuptogether.ca website)