Bill C-377, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations) Senator Jane Cordy June 25th, 2013
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Carignan, seconded by the Honourable Senator Marshall, for the third reading of Bill C-377, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations);
Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, as Senator Day stated earlier today, the debate is adjourned in the name of Senator Cools, so I ask that it return to her name after those of us who wish to speak this evening do so.
Like Senator Ringuette and others who have done such an excellent job this evening, I wish to speak against Bill C-377. I would also like to thank Senator Ringuette for the tremendous work she has done in standing up for Canadian workers and as the Liberal critic for Bill C-377.
The committee dealing with the bill received letters and presentations from the governments of Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Ontario, who all took a stand that labour relations are a provincial jurisdiction.
Honourable senators, under the Constitution Act, the regulation of labour unions falls exclusively under provincial jurisdiction, so I am puzzled as to why we would vote for a bill that would intrude on provincial matters.
I would also this evening like to read parts of letters and emails that I have received from hundreds of Canadians. They represent people from around the country, and I feel it is very important that their voices be heard in the Senate, the chamber of sober second thought.
From Vinay I heard, as I am sure everyone in the chamber heard:
As a Canadian taxpayer, I am concerned about the outrageous costs (estimates vary between $10.6 million and $150 million for the establishment of the registry) and bureaucratic red tape (approximately 25,000 organizations must submit details of ALL financial transactions over $5,000.)
He also said that it is the role of Canada's Senate to take a sober second look at proposed legislation passed by the House of Commons and to put a check on the power of the house when necessary.
While Bill C-377 claims to address the accountability and transparency of labour unions, we know the real motivation for the bill is to silence unions and their members.
The bill singles-out labour organizations and does not apply to any other dues-deducting professional organizations.
Danny Cavanagh, from Nova Scotia, said:
Bill C-377 aims to force labour organizations to disclose a significant amount of financial and sensitive information. This bill does not mention that unions are democratic organizations and already disclose their financial statements to members who request it. This bill will create a mountain of bureaucratic red tape and approximately 25,000 organizations must submit details of ALL financial transactions over $5,000.... This bill is extremely expensive, estimates vary between $10.6 million and $150 million for the establishment of the registry.
Tom Lee said:
I am writing to thank you for your principled opposition to Bill C-377, the Harper government's unfair and unconstitutional attack on Canadian workers.
The transparency argument for the need of this Bill is simply a red herring. Unions report all spending to their respective members who make the decisions democratically on how their dues are to be spent. Any member who complains that they are not informed has little else to do but pick up the phone or email their Local or National and will have all expenditures made available to them.... Unions must maintain records, do audits and have trustees go over the books on a regular basis.
I urge you to oppose this bill as it is presented to you with malicious intent. Am I naive to believe that this country stands for rights and for justice, and those elected or appointed into leadership roles are there to speak for fairness? This bill was created to attack labour unions and workers who built this great country. It asks for transparency, for our unions to show our members where their dues are going. As local president, I can say I do that every month at our local meetings.
I am the President of a small Local of the IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees) in Nova Scotia....
I am writing to you today to encourage you to do everything in your power to defeat Bill C-377. My Local does not have any full time staff. We are a volunteer board. The burden this bill places on us is quite simply unmanageable.
The idea that this reporting is a benefit to the members, because it forces transparency is nothing but misdirection on the part of the Conservatives. The Trade Union Act of Nova Scotia already deals with financial transparency....
Truly, besides being an obvious attack on Labour, I am concerned with the privacy of members or their spouses accessing our medical/life insurance.
I write to express my opposition to Bill C-377 and to ask that you openly and on record reject this attack on unions and workers. I am asking that you vote against this bill and show it for what it truly is; a heavy handed attempt to muzzle or control real debate and openness in politics across this country.
I am a Retired Worker and I write to you today to ask you to speak and vote against Bill C-377.
... This is a distinct invasion of privacy and an unsafe practice because information posted on the CRA website could be used for unfair business practices e.g. contract bidding etc....
This bill is nothing more than a vicious attack on over 4 million hard working Canadians and I urge you to vote against it.
I am writing today to express the appreciation of the Federal Government Dockyards Trades and Labour Council (Esquimalt) and all 11 of our Constituent Unions, for your solid opposition to this regressive and draconian legislation, the Harper government's attack on the Canadian worker and their workplace representatives.
As you may well imagine Bill C-377, an Act to amend the Income Tax Act, is more about bogging down unions with forms and expenses and a myriad of unnecessary disclosures than it is about fairness and transparency in the labour sector.
Please add my name to those who strongly urge you to defeat this anti-labour Bill C-377. The attack on organized labour must be curtailed.
I am writing to thank you for your principled opposition to Bill C-377.
I am writing you to urge you to do everything in your power to derail the Harper government's despicable attack on the financial future of Canada's labour unions — Bill C- 377.
I am the Business Agent for a small local of film industry technicians here in Atlantic Canada. Our members live the precarious life of a freelancer, never knowing from year to the next what productions will set up shop on the East Coast. Because they can't count on continuous work, they rely on their union to coordinate their retirement funds, their medical plan and their training. Our elected union executive does everything it can to ensure that our members' dues, retirement, training and medical funds are spent as judiciously as we can. We resent the Harper government suggesting that our hard-working volunteer board members are doing anything untoward. Our books are audited regularly, and are presented to our members at regular member meetings. I would suggest that our books undergo more scrutiny than those of the PMO.
The passage of this bill will result in costing Canadian taxpayers yet undetermined sums of money to fix a problem that does not exist.
From Ken Georgetti:
This bill is a solution in search of a problem....
The Certified General Accountants of Canada stated that the bill relates not to the tax authority of the federal Parliament but the regulation of trade unions or labour relations....
Five provinces have advised the Minister of Labour or the Committee that the bill is outside of Parliament's jurisdiction and intrudes on provincial jurisdiction. These are Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia.
Honourable senators, I also have several emails from Joan Jessome. Those of us from Nova Scotia would know her well. In reply to an email from me, Joan said:
Thank you for your reply. I have been leading my union for 15 years and cannot believe the targeted hatred that is directed at us by this Federal Government.
Honourable senators, Canadians expect openness and transparency. Unions provide transparency to their members. However, this bill is not about transparency. It is simply an attack against unions by the Harper government. It is an attack against the hard-working Canadians who are members of unions.
Last week, a Conservative senator commented outside the chamber that Bill C-377 is overwhelmingly bad but they will vote overwhelmingly in favour of it.
Honourable senators, when we pass bills in this place, we have to remember the human faces of Canadians who are affected by what we do. This is bad legislation and it is unconstitutional. We are supposed to be the chamber of sober second thought. I ask honourable senators to vote against Bill C-377. That is what I am doing. I also ask why honourable senators would vote for a bill that is overwhelmingly bad.
Senator Ringuette: Would the honourable senator accept a question?
Senator Cordy: Yes.
Senator Ringuette: I thank the honourable senator for her speech. She has indicated many times that five provinces have written to the committee expressing their opposition to this bill. Each of us here represents a province. There are 6 senators here from Manitoba, 24 from Ontario, 24 from Quebec, 10 from New Brunswick and 10 from Nova Scotia. Therefore, there are 74 senators in this place representing those five provinces. Does the honourable senator think it is proper that those 74 senators from those five provinces would vote in support of this bill?
Senator Cordy: That is an excellent question. I thank the honourable senator very much for it. The Senate was set up to represent our regions. I represent Nova Scotia, and Nova Scotia is one of the provinces the honourable senator mentioned. The labour minister from Nova Scotia appeared before the committee and said that this bill deals with Nova Scotia's provincial jurisdiction.
We have a responsibility to represent the people from our provinces. I believe that if the government of a province has told the Senate committee that this bill would usurp its authority, we have a responsibility to vote against it.