An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Russ Hiebert  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Income Tax Act to require that labour organizations provide financial information to the Minister for public disclosure.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Dec. 12, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
Dec. 12, 2012 Passed That Bill C-377, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations), be concurred in at report stage with further amendments.
Dec. 12, 2012 Passed That Bill C-377, in Clause 1, be amended by : (a) replacing lines 1 to 7 on page 2 with the following: “(2) Every labour organization and every labour trust shall, by way of electronic filing (as defined in subsection 150.1(1)) and within six months from the end of each fiscal period, file with the Minister an information return for the year, in prescribed form and containing prescribed information. (3) The information return referred to” (b) replacing lines 26 to 31 on page 2 with the following: “assets — with all transactions and all disbursements, the cumulative value of which in respect of a particular payer or payee for the period is greater than $5,000, shown as separate entries along with the name of the payer and payee and setting out for each of those transactions and disbursements its purpose and description and the specific amount that has been paid or received, or that is to be paid or received, and including” (c) replacing lines 33 to 35 on page 2 with the following: “(ii) a statement of loans exceeding $250 receivable from officers, employees, members or businesses,” (d) replacing line 4 on page 3 with the following: “to officers, directors and trustees, to employees with compensation over $100,000 and to persons in positions of authority who would reasonably be expected to have, in the ordinary course, access to material information about the business, operations, assets or revenue of the labour organization or labour trust, including” (e) replacing lines 11 to 14 on page 3 with the following: “consideration provided, (vii.1) a statement with a reasonable estimate of the percentage of time dedicated by persons referred to in subparagraph (vii) to each of political activities, lobbying activities and other non-labour relations activities, (viii) a statement with the aggregate amount of disbursements to” (f) replacing lines 22 to 25 on page 3 with the following: “provided, “(viii.1) a statement with a reasonable estimate of the percentage of time dedicated by persons referred to in subparagraph (viii) to each of political activities, lobbying activities and other non-labour relations activities, (ix) a statement with the aggregate amount of disbursements on” (g) replacing lines 33 to 40 on page 3 with the following: “(xiii) a statement with the aggregate amount of disbursements on administration, (xiv) a statement with the aggregate amount of disbursements on general overhead, (xv) a statement with the aggregate amount of disbursements on organizing activities, (xvi) statement with the aggregate amount of disbursements on collective bargaining activities,” (h) replacing lines 1 and 2 on page 4 with the following: “(xix) a statement with the aggregate amount of disbursements on legal activities, excluding information protected by solicitor-client privilege, (xix.1) a statement of disbursements (other than disbursements included in a statement referred to in any of subparagraphs (iv), (vii), (viii) and (ix) to (xix)) on all activities other than those that are primarily carried on for members of the labour organization or labour trust, excluding information protected by solicitor-client privilege, and” (i) replacing lines 4 to 13 on page 4 with the following: “( c) a statement for the fiscal period listing the sales of investments and fixed assets to, and the purchases of investments and fixed assets from, non-arm’s length parties, including for each property a description of the property and its cost, book value and sale price; ( d) a statement for the fiscal period listing all other transactions with non-arm’s length parties; and ( e) in the case of a labour organization or” (j) replacing line 29 on page 4 with the following: “contained in the information return” (k) replacing lines 33 to 35 on page 4 with the following: “Internet site in a searchable format. (5) For greater certainty, a disbursement referred to in any of subparagraphs (3)( b)(viii) to (xx) includes a disbursement made through a third party or contractor. (6) Subsection (2) does not apply to ( a) a labour-sponsored venture capital corporation; and ( b) a labour trust the activities and operations of which are limited exclusively to the administration, management or investments of a deferred profit sharing plan, an employee life and health trust, a group sickness or accident insurance plan, a group term life insurance policy, a private health services plan, a registered pension plan or a supplementary unemployment benefit plan. (7) Subsection (3) does not require the reporting of ( a) information, regarding disbursements and transactions of, or the value of investments held by, a labour trust (other than a trust described in paragraph (6)(b)), that is limited exclusively to the direct expenditures or transactions by the labour trust in respect of a plan, trust or policy described in paragraph (6)(b); ( b) the address of a person in respect of whom paragraph (3)(b) applies; or ( c) the name of a payer or payee in respect of a statement referred to in any of subparagraphs (3)(b)(i), (v), (ix), (xiii) to (xvi) and (xix).”
Dec. 12, 2012 Failed That Bill C-377, in Clause 1, be amended by replacing line 20 on page 1 with the following: “labour organization is a signatory and also includes activities associated with advice, commentary or advocacy provided by an employer organization in respect of labour relations activities, collective bargaining, employment standards, occupational health and safety, the regulation of trades, apprenticeship, the organization of work or any other workplace matter.”
March 14, 2012 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

Motions in AmendmentIncome Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

December 7th, 2012 / 2:25 p.m.
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NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all, let me help my friends learn a little about how this actually works, as I am probably the only member of the House who was the financial officer for a large union. I spent eight years of my life doing that.

This whole idea that the government is suggesting, that there is this lack of transparency and that unions do not tell anyone anything and all of this information is hidden away from the membership somewhere in a secret vault, is absolute hokum. I will explain how this works, especially to my friend who lives nearby.

Any expenditure beyond $100 needs ratification not only from the executive board but from the membership. That is right, all of the membership gets to vote on any expenditure beyond $100. The limit of any local union, and any union pretty much across the country, to expense money on behalf of its members is only up to $100.

When is that information reported to union members? It is reported monthly. This information is related both verbally and in writing. In my case, that is exactly what I did.

There is that dreaded audit that all of us fear on our income tax, but unions audit themselves continuously. These audits are conducted by outside auditors. In my case, KPMG used to do the audit. At one time, KPMG did an audit every six months because the organization was so large, but it eventually became a yearly audit.

Who else comes to visit unions? The folks who collect provincial taxes come to visit. They want to find out if the union has a hall that it rents out because taxes have to be paid on those things. They come and check the taxes as well.

Therefore, this idea that somehow there are no checks and balances in the system, that somehow the membership does not understand where the money is spent, or somehow we just collect the money, give it away and never tell anybody who we give it to is just false. That is not true. The membership always knows exactly where its money is spent. Members have the absolute democratic right when they do not like a particular expenditure to say no to it. They also have the right not to vote for a person the next time.

I can tell my colleagues across the way that I guess we did this so well, at least in my union, that I was elected three times as the financial officer. The members had no fear about how their money was expensed because they were always told how their money was expensed. In fact, we were more open than this government when it comes to the budget. The government had an omnibus budget bill that had less amendments to it than Bill C-377. That bill was so poorly put together in the first place that the Conservatives almost had to rewrite it to make it conform and be palatable to someone, but I have no idea who.

Clearly, this is not a bill that is supposed to be informative for union members or the general public. This is simply a bill that attacks unions across this country. There is no need for it and it should not be passed. It should just die on the order paper—

Bill C-377—Income Tax ActPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

November 27th, 2012 / 10:10 a.m.
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NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order with respect to Bill C-377, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations), introduced by the hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale.

My hon. colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie has already risen in this House to bring to your attention the fact that this bill requires royal recommendation in order to pass. My colleague's arguments were all very clear and perfectly illustrated the NDP's concerns regarding the implications of this bill. I am raising this issue once again here today because some new information has become available to MPs, and I feel I must bring it to your attention as well.

Indeed, and as my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie already mentioned, the Canada Revenue Agency received an order from the Standing Committee on Finance to answer some questions regarding new and distinct funds that will result from Bill C-377 if it is passed. Those answers were sent to the members of the Standing Committee on Finance yesterday. I will submit the document containing those answers following my speech.

First of all, the Canada Revenue Agency confirmed that the new and distinct funds that will result from Bill C-377 were not included in the most recent supplementary estimates, as is always the case with private members' business.

The Canada Revenue Agency also confirmed that this bill will result in expenditures that are not currently authorized by legislation. In response to the third question, the agency said that Bill C-377 amends the Income Tax Act to give the minister authority over these new expenditures.

My colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie also pointed out that clause 1(4) of the bill, which requires the minister to make the information collected available to the public, will also result in new expenditures. The Canada Revenue Agency confirmed this in the answers forwarded to us.

The answer we received today from the agency is that, “Changes will be made to the CRA website to fulfill the requirements of the bill.”

The agency even provided an estimate of the costs resulting from system changes. For the Canada Revenue Agency, the estimated incremental costs arising from the required system changes, including changes to the Canada Revenue Agency website, are $8.5 million for 70 full-time employees in the first two years and $1 million in subsequent years for nine full-time employees.

These costs represent new expenditures because the Canada Revenue Agency is not currently committed to disclosing the information, as required by the bill. The answers obtained also refute the argument of this bill's sponsor to the effect that the agency is already doing similar work as part of the charities program.

In fact, the agency confirmed that it is not currently committed to disclose such an exhaustive amount of information as required under Bill C-377. This is what the agency had to say in this regard:

The Charities Directorate does not provide partial information to the public. The directorate gathers only the minimum amount of transactional information from registered charities, and not all that information is disclosed.

I would like to close by sharing some information obtained from the agency that says a lot about the new and distinct costs associated with Bill C-377. As it is now worded, the bill requires the implementation of an entire system that includes electronic processing, validations and automatic posting to the Canada Revenue Agency's website. The estimated incremental cost for the Canada Revenue Agency is $10.6 million for the first two years, including 91 full-time employees, and $2.1 million for each consecutive year, including 21 full-time employees. These costs are attributable mainly to information cross-referencing requirements.

It is important to note that these are the estimated costs for 1,000 respondents, but Bill C-377 is written in such a way that it includes all labour organizations and trusts, which represents close to 25,000 tax filers. The costs incurred would therefore be 25 times higher than these estimates.

I believe that it is now clear that Bill C-377 requires a royal recommendation in order to be voted on at third reading since the exorbitant costs that would be incurred by cross-referencing the large amounts of information gathered by the Canada Revenue Agency are new and distinct.

In order to make it easier for you to examine this important issue, Mr. Speaker, I will make the answers obtained from the Canada Revenue Agency available to you. I would like to thank you for the attention you will give to this important matter.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

March 13th, 2012 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise to address Bill C-377 on behalf of the Liberal Party and put on record some concerns around the bill. It is apropos that the bill has come forward today, as the Conservative government is bringing forward back to work legislation. Most Canadians will see this as just another brick on the load, another attempt to handcuff organized labour in this country. I see that in this piece of legislation.

The Liberal Party of Canada understands the importance and is supportive of measures that lend themselves to openness, transparency and accountability. We can look at the other type of organization in this country that is governed under a set of rules similar to that being put forward in this piece of legislation: charities. Charities are asked to post their financial statements for public view. We know it was a Liberal government that brought that forward in 1977. The legislation has served fairly well. But when we compare the provisions around charities in comparison to what would be asked now of organized labour, the provisions in this bill go far beyond what is expected of charities.

One thing that we can agree on in discussion of the bill is that this piece of legislation would be truly burdensome on organized labour and unions. It begs a great number of questions. If the intent of my colleague who put this forward is to try to ensure accountability and transparency in organizations that receive a tax benefit through the Income Tax Act, a question has to be asked. Why in drafting the bill did he not include professional organizations? Between organized unions and professional organizations, there is about $800 million in tax benefits. Professional organizations actually garner a greater share of that $800 million than do unions. If we are looking for accountability, we should ask for accountability for all those groups that benefit under section 149 of the Income Tax Act. The tax exemption is allotted for charities, professional organizations and unions.

We know that the burden would be placed on accounting for every expenditure over $5,000 not just on the current accounts, but on trust accounts of unions and union locals. We would end up with pensioners making small amounts of money and drawing small pensions from those trust funds. They would have to post the amounts being drawn from the trusts, creating concerns around privacy.

For anyone who does business with a union, those accounts would be posted. The small contractor who does maintenance and janitorial work at the local union hall would have to post what he draws from the union for services rendered. The next time they called for janitorial services, his competition would see what he is making. It will not be fair.

A number of concerns arise. The most egregious, and this brings us back to the discussion and debate we are having today on the back to work legislation, is how it would tip the field in disfavour of organized labour by making it necessary to bare all accounts.

If a company and a union local are in the midst of contract negotiations which are coming to a head, there is potential for a strike. The union then looks at what fiscal shape it is in. It has full access to the books and understands how long it could sustain any kind of a strike benefit. It goes forward to find a fair resolve through the open and fair bargaining process. However, knowing what is in the books and accounts of that union would be of particular benefit to the company. We do not believe that we can support any legislation that contains a measure which would give an unfair advantage to one group over another.

A number of different aspects of the bill are of concern. Certainly, we fully support the provisions with respect to openness and accountability.

There was an accountability bill brought forward in the last Parliament by our former colleague Albina Guarnieri. There were a number of issues surrounding the amount of salaries of some heads of charities at the time. The bill required that any salaries over $100,000 being drawn from a charity had to be posted and made public. Of course that bill died on the order paper with the coming of the last election.

Professional associations are much like unions. Members of associations receive a similar tax exemption to members of unions. We know that it is a requirement in most professional organizations. If people want to practice in a particular profession, then they have to become a member of that professional organization. There is a mandatory aspect to it. Therefore, it escapes me why professional organizations have not been included in the drafting of the bill to make it fair for all parties.

In closing, we support accountability and transparency. Over the years we have shown that we believe in those aspects. Many of the provisions for organized labour and charities are now in place. Had the member come forward with a bill that did not focus only on organized labour, but looked at professional organizations and professional associations as well and was even across the board, then we would be supportive of it. However, the way the bill is written now, we will not be able to stand and support it when the time comes to vote.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

March 13th, 2012 / 5:40 p.m.
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NDP

Claude Patry NDP Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-377. I myself am a former union president and vice-president. The way a union works is that members are consulted at the general meeting once a year. In my union, we managed the collective agreement and prescription drug insurance for blue-collar and white-collar workers.

Can we imagine the impact this bill will have when it is enacted? Unions are being asked to disclose their labour relations activities, to report what they do and how they finance their activities, to disclose their political activities, their collective bargaining activities, and information about conventions, education and training activities, legal activities and recruiting activities. Essentially, unions are being asked to drop their pants in front of everybody. They have to show their figures.

How can unions develop a strategy? How can they bargain with an employer when the employer knows everything about their figures, like the strike fund, the operating fund and the staff? This is unacceptable.

When I was president of a union in Arvida, we had prescription drug insurance for blue-collar and white-collar workers. There is strategy involved in relation to the drugs and the administrative costs. There are a lot of companies that would have liked to have access to that information about prescription drugs. This bill makes no sense because it is truly an attack on unions.

Why have the Conservatives not tried to require the same of companies? Let them do it for the banks and the multinationals. Let them do it for small businesses. That way there will be a level playing field for bargaining. They are not doing it because the companies will rise up and say that these are their strategies and their prices, there are competition issues, and they cannot agree to that. That is also the case for unions. They are the only organizations that working people have for organizing and defending themselves against employers and against multinational companies.

In Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, we currently have a lockout at Rio Tinto Alcan; the employees have been locked out since December 31. These people would like us to drop our pants and put all our files on the table. The money invested in health and safety involves cases that are going to be argued. They are legal files. The member is asking that this be put on a website. That makes no sense. This bill makes no sense.

Honestly, I have been here since May 2 and all I have seen on the other side of the House is contempt for unions. There was Canada Post and Air Canada. We are talking about Air Canada again today. People are still being bullied. Whose interests will this bill serve? It will not serve the interests of unions and working people. It will serve the interests of the multinational companies and corporations, and not the unions that stand up for working people.

Currently, the unions make their figures public annually following their general meetings. I was a union president and that is what I did every year for six years. There were figures for the purchase of office equipment and employees’ wages. Everything was included. I do not see why it would be placed on a website. Recruitment is very important and strategic, so why should the unions have to include this information in documents that everyone has access to?

If the Conservatives want to be transparent, as they say they do, then they should also be transparent with their employers.

Transparency is important. How can a union negotiate if the employer knows all about its strike fund and is aware of how much was spent on legal fees, and on the collective agreement? Bargaining takes place for collective agreements that last three or four years. It is customary in negotiations to attempt to improve the provisions of a collective agreement.

Bill C-377 forces the unions to show their hand. In my opinion, it is like asking the unions to drop their pants in front of everybody. That is what it amounts to, in union jargon.

I would also like to talk about the cost of implementing this initiative. Bill C-377 will be a bureaucratic monster. We saw this in the case of firearms. We were told that everything would be electronic and run smoothly. The firearms registry cost Canadians $1 billion. How much will it cost for the implementation and enforcement of this legislation?

This bill amounts to a double standard. It does not make sense. The unions are being asked to drop their pants and show everything, to speak plainly.

The following things are explained to workers at general meetings: what was spent throughout the year, how much the heating, building and insurance policies cost. Why put this information on the website? Union reorganization and recruitment are confidential. If a new union were created and new members sought, all of this information would have to be displayed on a website for all to see. That does not make sense. As a former union president, I cannot tolerate that kind of practice. If the government wants the NDP to vote for this, it should ask the same thing of employers and everyone else.

Earlier we spoke of the cost of the registry. It is going to cost some money. There are 12,000 unions across Canada, which is not easy to manage. How will the small unions with just a hundred or so members and one or two employees handle the extra work, carry out analyses, produce documents and send the required information to the government? If the unions are not up to date, they will pay fines while certain companies enjoy insurance premium and tax holidays. That does not make sense, and we do not agree with it.

Some say that the NDP is always negative, but we want equality and justice for everyone. The government makes cutbacks to programs claiming that they are too expensive, and then creates a new bureaucracy. It takes away public servants from one place and adds them to another. I have not been in politics for very long, and I have trouble understanding that. Someone will have to explain it to me.

As I just said, it is a double standard. With this bill, the workers will once again have to pick up the tab. Once again, the people will have to pay the public servants responsible for all this. It does not make any sense. It is disrespectful to the union. Since I have been a member of Parliament, all I hear is how the NDP is on the side of the unions. The NDP is on the side of logical people, so that no one suffers. We are here to help people. Regardless of what party we belong to, we all do good and bad things, but we have to at least stand up for the interests of Canadians. However, that is not what the government is doing. It is dividing the people. It is telling the little people to do what they are told, to pay up and shut up. That is not what we want in Canada. It is a strange coincidence that today's debate is about Air Canada, the strategy and other things.

What will be done with the information that is disclosed to the public? In summary, it will be costly, unfair and discriminatory. The Conservatives must redo their homework. Such a thing cannot be asked of small, medium or large unions. Some unions cannot even meet the requirements because they have only one or two employees.

In a large union, such as the one for which I worked, there are employees or an accountant who can do that work. We must think about all the bureaucracy and the logistics that will result from this bill. I do not understand how the House can say that cuts must be made. The government is purchasing airplanes and building megaprisons. It is laying off Service Canada employees and cutting services, but adding others to monitor the unions. What is this called? I will let the hon. members guess.

It is unacceptable that this is being done to workers. Unions are the only way that workers can organize and stand up for themselves.

We will vote against this bill because it does not make any sense. If the government wants us to vote in favour of this bill, it must pull up its socks and ensure that it applies to small and medium businesses, multinational corporations and banks. Only then we will approve this bill, not before.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

March 13th, 2012 / 5:50 p.m.
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NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-377, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations).

The bill before us seeks to require trade unions to publicly disclose their financial statements. The reporting requirements contemplated by the bill are completely unnecessary, but the government knows that.

In Canada's trade union movement, financial statements are audited and reported to elected boards of directors, to all union locals, and to delegates at conventions. Annual audited statements must be filed with both provincial and federal labour boards. The Canada Labour Code requires that financial statements be available to members. Where those statements are not routinely provided to all members, individual union members can request them from their locals and directly from labour boards. The process is open, fair, democratic and accountable.

What is really being advanced by this bill is a dangerous and unprecedented move to advance the government's agenda of undermining the balance of labour relations in Canada by tipping the scales overwhelmingly in favour of employers.

Trade unions are profoundly democratic institutions. The leadership is elected by the membership and serves at the pleasure of those members. The relationship between a union's leadership and its members is one of transparency and accountability. A union is accountable to its members, just as comparable not-for-profit and tax-exempt entities, like think tanks, professional associations and trade boards are accountable to their members.

With this legislation the government is once again breaching the bounds of fundamental fairness by demanding that trade unions release their financial information to the public. Importantly, it is only trade unions that would be required to do so. Entities such as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the law society, and the Fraser Institute, all of which enjoy the same kind of tax-exempt status as unions, are curiously not mentioned in the bill. When the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale first introduced this legislation as Bill C-317 in the last Parliament, he was asked why it targeted unions alone, why the same provisions would not apply to other not-for-profit agencies or societies. He was unable to answer that very basic question.

Clearly the labour movement is being singled out for attack in this legislation. Equally clear, the decision to uniquely target labour is ideological, unbalanced and vindictive.

Why are we here today debating a bill which on the surface appears to remedy a wholly invented problem?

We are here to debate legislation that would have the effect of hog-tying unions as they conduct their daily business of representing and advocating for working women and men. With this bill the employer sitting across the negotiating table would have ready access to all the financial information it might need to wage a war of attrition designed to bankrupt a union.

With this legislation the employer would know exactly what resources the union has and how far those resources will stretch. The employer would be handed a report that tells it exactly how much the union can spend on a grievance, whether the union can afford an organizing drive, and precisely how much is in the strike fund. It is absolutely outrageous.

Would the government contemplate any other negotiation between two parties where one side was legislatively required to hand over financial information that provided the other side with a spectacular competitive advantage?

This is legislation that corrupts the very idea of fairness and balance in negotiations between parties and undermines the fundamental right of free collective bargaining.

In grasping this we can now see the real purpose of this legislation. It is not intended to improve transparency or accountability. It is intended to deliver to the government's corporate friends a cudgel with which to hobble Canadian unions as they seek to represent their members.

We have seen the government's determination to sabotage free collective bargaining before, and this bill represents one more breach of common sense and responsible management. Never mind that labour rights are ostensibly protected by international conventions. Never mind that the balance of labour relations in this country has been relatively stable for decades. Never mind that organized labour in Canada represents more than three million men and women from coast to coast to coast. In every major dispute since they came to power, the Conservatives have responded with heavy-handed tactics expressly designed to hand the employer a win: disingenuous referrals to the labour board; the imposition of wage settlements that are lower than the employer's offer; draconian back to work legislation announced before labour disruptions have even begun.

Employers in this country now know beyond a doubt that there is no need to engage in free and fair collective bargaining, because the moment workers contemplate exercising their rights, the government will side with the employer and legislate those rights away. To the simple-minded government this must seem terribly convenient. In fact, it is a dangerous undermining of an always fragile balance in labour relations that will further destabilize an already flagging economy.

We have seen that the government's obdurate evidence-free ideological determination to punish those it sees as its political enemies trumps good management and fairness every time. Like a spoiled child, the government's reactionary knee-jerk propensity to attack any individual or organization that has the temerity to disagree with its world view knows no limits. We have seem it lash out at civil servants, scientists, NGOs, even churches, and now Canada's labour movement is again in the crosshairs.

If the government were really interested in accountability and transparency, it would first take a long hard look inward. Its own record is abysmal, from withholding Afghan detainee documents to the member for Parry Sound—Muskoka's multi-million dollar pork-barrel extravaganza, from an inability to tell Canadians how much the omnibus crime legislation will cost taxpayers to ministers and senior officials jetting about on Challengers, from failed multi-billion dollar sole-sourced F-35 purchases to electoral fraud. The Conservative government's call for accountability is sanctimonious nonsense. Its house is made of glass.

If the government has any real interest in accountability and serving the voters who sent us here to represent their interests in sound fiscal management, in making the lives of hard-working Canadians just a little bit easier, there is a long list of initiatives for workers to which it could and should turn its attention and resources.

Unemployment and underemployment for example are growing problems which the government continues to ignore. The real unemployment rate is 11%. Almost two million Canadians are out of work. Student unemployment last summer was a staggering 17%.

Conservative Party talking points aside, the truth is that the government has no job creation plan. That is why the NDP has called on the government to take positive steps to kickstart job creation.

The government should abandon its disastrous corporate tax spending policy and instead use that $3 billion to $4 billion a year for job creation measures that work. We should be providing a new higher tax credit for every new employee who stays on the payroll for a year. We have called on the government to cut small business income tax by two percentage points to encourage local job creation and investment, and to invest in infrastructure projects to address the infrastructure deficit, create jobs and boost competitiveness and living standards.

New Democrats want to invest in green infrastructure and renewable energy to facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy and to invest in skills training for workers in transition and leading-edge industries. Instead, the government, bereft of a job strategy, has given away billions in subsidies and tax breaks to corporations without any condition that they create or even protect jobs for Canadians. When the victims of these failed Conservative policies attempt to access the employment insurance system, one in three of them are turned away.

That is why a previous Parliament voted to support my motion to expand and enhance EI benefits. That motion called for the elimination of the two-week waiting period for benefits, a reduction in standardization of the hours of qualification, and an increase in weekly benefits. Our caucus has tabled specific proposals in this Parliament to promote job creation, and to make EI the effective and responsive safety net Canadian workers have paid for.

Canadian families want action on jobs. When they become the innocent victims of the economic downturn, they deserve the support of their government. What do they get from the government instead? A petulant and gratuitous shot at Canadian workers that further weakens their collective position.

This legislation is as unnecessary as it is irresponsible. It is nothing but a partisan assault on the men and women who go to work every day to provide for their families and the unions who represent them.

I call on all members in the House to stand up for working families and vote to defeat this ill-conceived bill.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

March 13th, 2012 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, we have heard a couple of great speeches from my colleagues. I too am going to lend a few words to debate on this bill.

I have seen a lot of nonsense from the government, but I cannot believe why we are dealing with Bill C-377. It targets one group in our society and singles it out for unfair, onerous, burdensome treatment with no apparent reason other to make mischief, attack unions and drive them out of our communities. I do not understand.

I do not know where the sponsor of this bill comes from or if he remembers the history of his community, but I want to ask him and other members opposite to think about the freedoms that we cherish in our community and our country and to consider for a moment their history. I want to ask him as well to consider the role that working people have played in the establishment of those freedoms and of those important programs, and the work they have done to build our roads and public buildings and to ensure that we have goods and services in order to have a high standard of living. Health care, health and safety laws, workers compensation, unemployment insurance, pensions and all of the other things that have made our communities as strong as they are today have resulted from the struggles of working people and their organizations, trade unions. They do not deserve this kind of attack.

It has been said by my colleagues that this bill does not deal with other like organizations that are similar in structure, such as professional associations or law societies. It does not touch the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, for example. It does not deal with other organizations in the same way that it attempts to single out trade unions.

As has been stated by my colleagues, I have often said that trade unions are one of the most democratic organizations we have in society. The revenues and resources that unions have to deal with are as a result of dues and contributions by members, from the pay they receive for doing their work. How that money is spent is determined by those very same workers.

If members have any question about how these unions deal and make those decisions and hold themselves accountable, I would like to take them out to a general membership meeting. I would like them to come to any one of the annual conventions held by the trade unions in this country and see the scrutiny that the financial statements of those unions receive from their members. Members would recognize that there is far more scrutiny and transparency regarding the financial statements of trade unions than there is in corporations in this country.

We have never had any explanation from the government opposite for what has happened to the tens of billions of dollars that profitable corporations have received from Canadian taxpayers. Supposedly it was meant to create jobs, but since January, for example, when these corporations recognized an additional $3 billion, what we have seen in this country is a further deterioration in the number of jobs.

My point is that when it comes to accountability, trade unions are one of the most accountable organizations that we have in our society.

We also hear members opposite talk about the “big union bosses” as though they are a big entity and similar to one of the big banks that make tens of billions of dollars in profit every year.

Let me tell members that the largest union in this country is the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which has over 600,000 members. However, that union is made up of nearly 3,000 small locals. Those locals may consist of two people, five people, ten people. There may be upwards of 10,000 in some of them, but the majority of them are tens or hundreds of members.

Every single month, one of those union locals holds a general membership meeting. Whoever the fortunate or unfortunate person is, depending upon one's perspective, who has taken the secretary-treasurer role has to stand in front of the members and account for how those dues are being spent.

Let me tell members that there is not a treasurer I know of in a trade union who gets off lucky. They have to be able to account for every single penny, because working women and men know what it is like to be frugal, they know what it is like to be accountable, and they want to know how their money is being spent.

In fact, that is what drives me and that is what drives many members on this side: the concerns that working women and men in this country have about how the government is spending its resources.

Why would we not expect the government to be attacking unions through a bill like this? It attacks working people. We see now that we are dealing with back to work legislation for a dispute that has not even started. We have seen it with the postal workers and we have seen it with Air Canada ealier. We have seen that whenever the government has had an opportunity to put the boots to working people, it has taken that opportunity.

Senior citizens, whether they are seniors now or whether they will be seniors in the future, are going to be asked to shoulder a greater burden by having the age of eligibility for OAS extended from 65 to 67 years old. That is going to be a burden for low-income senior citizens. That is an attack by the current government on seniors.

It is the same with veterans. We talked in this House about how the government is attacking veterans and slashing the budget of Veterans Affairs.

Ninety per cent of the budget of Veterans Affairs goes to programs and services; the government is going to cut upwards of 10% out of that budget, and it says that it is not going to affect services to veterans and their families and to RCMP members, people who have sacrificed themselves and continue to sacrifice themselves for this country.

It is the same with voters. The government is attacking voters. We see every day a new revelation of what the Conservative government has done in terms of trying to suppress the rights of Canadians to vote for the people they want to vote for. That is another group that has been under attack.

The military post living differential is another example. The post living differential has been brought up to me by people in my constituency, who have said that the government is intending to cut the living allowance that compensates military families that have to move to different parts of the country or to other countries. It is going to cut it in half. That is another group that the government has its sights on.

Let me tell members that Canadians are getting sick and tired of the government picking out a group of people and deciding that it is next. They are wondering where the government is going to stop.

Our job in this House, whether in debating Bill C-377 or in dealing with the government's attack on Canadians' privacy through Bill C-11, will be to stand every single day and use every breath to fight the government, stand with Canadian families and ensure that the government backs off.

Then, in 2015, that is it. The Conservatives are gone.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

March 13th, 2012 / 6:10 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to follow my colleague from Nova Scotia, my fellow NDP caucus colleague, to express our points of view about this appalling piece of legislation, Bill C-377.

Usually when a bill is private member's business, other members of Parliament are less likely to attack it, because they understand it is the single hobby horse of a single MP who has a right to put forward his or her point of view. In this case, there is strong reason to believe that is a planned, orchestrated plant of this offensive, odious piece of legislation, using the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale as a vehicle for the government to express its views of contempt and prejudice against the labour movement that has given us so much throughout the history of this country.

My first observation is it is too bad this document is not written on softer paper, because then we could put it in the outhouse next to the Eaton's catalogue and use it as it more properly deserves to be used.

This is a gutless piece of legislation put forward by a cowardly member. If the Conservatives are so serious about attacking labour on the left, let them put forward a piece of legislation that is a government piece of legislation and put this—

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

March 13th, 2012 / 6:15 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do withdraw the remark. In my enthusiasm I used profane language, but I will finish the story.

This is coming full circle. The unions, through free collective bargaining and the right to withhold their services in the event of an impasse, drove up the average middle class wage in the United States to where it was a living wage, a consuming wage, a wage one could raise a family on. People had workplaces that were safe and healthy workplaces, because they had enforcement of health and safety provisions, because they had a union workplace safety and health committee on that work site. Coming from the construction industry, I know that every building built in the old days was a tombstone because men died on those jobs. That does not happen anymore because we made those workplaces safe.

As the government smashes the labour movement, as clearly it has given the indication it intends to do, declare war on labour on the left, not only will workers' wages diminish. How is that good for the economy? Also, workplace safety and health provisions will diminish. People will be dying in the workplace again just like in 1912 in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory.

Do not groan at me from over there, because I can tell members it is a fact that conditions will diminish if we do not have a strong and healthy trade union movement to protect the gains we have made in the last hundred years. Bill C-377 should go on the trash heap of history. It is an insult to working people in this country.

I want to recognize and pay tribute to the push-back of the building trades unions, especially my own union, the carpenters union, which is doing a job trying to lobby members of Parliament and trying to point out the folly in smashing the only thing that has elevated the standards of living wages and working conditions in this country. That is a free, vibrant and healthy trade union movement.

This is a cornerstone of any western democracy, the free and healthy trade union movement, the right to organize, the right to free collective bargaining and the right to withhold one's services in the event of an impasse. It is a cornerstone we are proud of. It is one of the very things by which we define ourselves as a free and open democracy. This piece of legislation has no place in a western democracy that prides itself on the rights of ordinary people and its citizens. It makes one wonder whose side the Conservatives are on.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

March 13th, 2012 / 6:20 p.m.
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NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member who spoke before me. He has a lot of passion for workers and the labour movement in this country, and has demonstrated a thorough understanding of the situation.

On this side of the House, we are wondering why unions are being targeted rather than all the organizations that collect dues. If we consider this motion in the context of the bill that we will be debating very soon, it seems to be an ideological attack by the government against the labour movement in this country, a movement that has achieved significant social gains.

When my great-grandfather came to Canada to work as a stonemason, the conditions were awful. Labour movements have made it possible to live in a society with healthy working environments and with benefits that enable us to raise children, to age with dignity and to have a pension.

This bill will also make privileged information available to businesses and to the government, which will give them unfair competitive and political advantages. However, when we talk about members of labour organizations, we are not talking about a small group of Canadians. There are 4.3 million Canadians who are either union members or have family members in a union. Those people will be automatically placed at a disadvantage compared to the government and business. The government and business will actually have access to all the information about the workers whereas the workers will not have access to any of that information. So they will be at a disadvantage in a bargaining situation.

The NDP is clearly in favour of transparency as long as it applies fairly to all organizations concerned and as long as it causes no harm. While recognizing that the hon. member probably has noble reasons for promoting transparency, this bill is going to violate the right to freedom of association in this country, as well as the rights to privacy and freedom of expression.

We estimate that this bill will create about 17.5 million hours of paperwork. About 25,000 workers' organizations that will have to comply with these requirements will each need about 700 hours of work annually to do so. That is a major burden, both for the government and for those workers. It will be an obstacle to the vitality of organizations that stand up for the rights of our fellow citizens. We must remember that it is these democratic organizations that stand up for the rights of our fellow citizens. In any case, how are Canadians going to be able to find their way through these millions of pieces of data? Of what use are the data? Their use will be when they are sent to the employers and used against the workers.

Bill C-377 takes its place in the series of Conservative attacks on workers, such as the strike at Canada Post or the bargaining at Air Canada. Instead of laying into hard-working Canadians, the Conservatives should be addressing the real problems Canadians face, like unemployment, poverty and our retirement pensions.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

March 13th, 2012 / 6:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to briefly summarize the second reading debate on my Bill C-377, which would require public financial disclosure of labour organizations.

First let me express my appreciation to my colleagues on both sides of the House for their comments and their interest in this subject. I commit to you, Mr. Speaker, and this place that I will not say anything that would force me to apologize because of my remarks.

My purpose in introducing the legislation is to create financial transparency in a group of institutions that are receiving substantial public benefits. All members here and the general public know the value in financial transparency for public institutions and for institutions that receive public benefits. That is why, for example, financial transparency for charities, which has existed for over 35 years now, is fully accepted by charities themselves, as well as the public.

Some members across the way have raised the point that some provinces have labour codes that require limited financial disclosure to union members only. This, however, is an irrelevant point that has nothing to do with this bill.

The purpose of the bill is not about requiring disclosure to union members. Rather its purpose is requiring disclosure to the general public because the public is providing a financial benefit through the tax system. The public has a right to know how the benefit they provide to labour organizations is being used.

Some MPs and several leaders and labour organizations have also raised the issue of the cost of compliance with the legislation. Again, I believe the cost to labour organizations of compliance with Bill C-377 to be quite minimal in this age of electronic bookkeeping.

Clearly, labour organizations already track their finances internally and translating this data into a format which can be filed with the Canada Revenue Agency is largely a question of technology and software. Compiling and filing a single unaudited information return once a year is not going to unduly encumber any labour organization. Any actual cost to the labour organization will be far outweighed by the benefits of transparency.

The NDP House leader stood in the House during the first hour of debate and made some wild claims that the bill was about to strip Canadians of their charter rights. He actually called the bill “an attack on the labour movement.”

Contrary to the NDP House leader's wild claims, transparency for unions is no more an attack on unions than transparency for charities is an attack on charities. We know, with 35 years experience of the matter, that financial transparency for charities has been a positive development and not an attack.

The truth is the vast majority of Canadians, a full 83%, as expressed in a recent Nanos poll, support financial transparency for labour organizations. I know those numbers are even higher in Quebec. As for the labour movement, according to the same poll, 86% of Canadians who identified themselves as unionized employees supported financial transparency. Clearly, the broad labour movement does not regard the bill as an attack on themselves. It is quite opposite in fact.

The NDP member for Acadie—Bathurst also complained during the debate that it did not apply to other types of organizations. We have heard that here as well. In fact, in ratcheting up the rhetoric, he suggested that transparency for a wide range of organizations was a matter of justice.

When drafting my bill, I chose to focus on addressing public financial disclosure by labour organizations, because they were unique institutions with a specific purpose and function, distinct from the other types of institutions that he mentioned. However, there is nothing in Bill C-377 that would preclude another member from seeking financial disclosure by other types of organizations that receive a public benefit. Some members, even this afternoon, mentioned the CFIB and I note that as a non-profit it does not receive a public benefit, unlike charities and the labour movement.

Despite the fact that a handful of union leaders and NDP MPs have suggested otherwise, this is very much a pro-union bill. The bottom line in all of this is that public financial disclosure will build public confidence that the public benefits that labour organizations are being provided are being used efficiently and effectively.

I appreciate the opportunity to share my input and I seek the support of all my colleagues at the second reading of the bill so that it can go to committee for further review.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

February 6th, 2012 / 11:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

moved that Bill C-377, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak to my Bill C-377.

Labour organizations play a valuable role in Canadian society, representing and defending the rights of workers.

Four million, three hundred thousand Canadians are currently union members, and millions more have been during their working lives.

There are thousands of Canadians in my riding of South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, British Columbia, who pay dues to labour organizations. Because of the valuable role unions play in the lives of many Canadians, our federal tax system has provided benefits to support the work of unions. Key among those benefits are a 100% tax deductibility for the union dues that workers pay and tax exempt status for the labour organizations themselves.

I would like to put the value of the dues deductibility into perspective. The federal government forgoes $795 million in tax revenue each year for union and professional dues. The majority of this amount is claimed by union members, probably in the range of $400 million to $500 million. This is a substantial public benefit. I believe it is only right for the public to know how that money is being spent. Therefore, my bill would require the public disclosure of the finances of labour organizations.

This measure is in line with the greater transparency that we are demanding from government departments, public agencies and native reserves. It is in line with the public disclosure required of other Canadian institutions that benefit from significant public funding.

For instance, public disclosure has been required for Canadian charities since 1977. The filings of charities are easy to find on the Canada Revenue Agency website.

I have based my requirements for public disclosure for labour organizations on the long existing provisions for charities in the Income Tax Act. With the passage of the bill, the public would be empowered to gauge the effectiveness, financial integrity and health of any labour union. This is something that Canadians want. According to a Nanos poll taken on Labour Day of last year, 83% of Canadians and 86% of union members want public financial disclosure for unions.

I would like to take a couple of minutes to run through the various provisions in the bill.

Clause 1 is the heart of the bill and can be considered in three parts.

First, there are three new definitions that would give greater clarity to terms already used or proposed in the bill. They are “labour organizations”, “labour relations activities” and “labour trust”.

Second, comes the lengthiest part of the bill: the statements of income and expenditures that must be submitted annually to the Minister of Revenue by labour organizations.

I have received plenty of input concerning the statements that would best illustrate how unions use their public benefits to help their members. The list is a long one, reflecting the often complex financial character of unions and the broad range of activities they undertake as they represent and serve their members.

Among these activities may be organizing, collective bargaining, education and training, conferences, political activities and lobbying. The required statements would also include disbursements to directors and to staff. As Jim Stanford, economist for the Canadian Auto Workers, recently pointed out, these figures are already published by the CAW. I believe that this level of detailed public disclosure would increase the confidence of Canadians that the public subsidy for labour organizations is warranted.

Third, subclause 1(4) would require that the information submitted be made available to the public by the minister, including posting on the Canada Revenue Agency website.

Clause 3 would have this act come into force six months following royal assent.

Since this bill was announced last fall, it has been interesting to receive feedback from various sources including union leaders themselves. First is a comment from Lerona Lewis, president of the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill, representing over 3,000 employees. She said her union already publicly discloses. She said, “You can go online to look to see what was spent, when it was spent, and so on”. And she says transparency is “something we believe in anyway”.

Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, sees things a little differently. He agrees with public disclosure generally, saying, “We're not opposed to transparency. We're more than happy to supply [the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale] or anyone else with our financial statements and our balance sheets as corporations file”. However, he goes on to say that, because my bill would ask for more detail than is currently requested from other institutions, “it's not fair and it's not equal”.

Mr. Georgetti may be correct that it is time to review the public disclosure requirements for other types of institutions receiving public benefits to determine if they also need improving. The finance committee is looking at the question of increasing the level of transparency for charities. However, this private member's bill deals specifically with labour organizations which have never been subject to public disclosure, unlike charities, that have been subject to public disclosure for over 35 years.

Mr. Georgetti also raises a concern that compliance with this bill may be costly for unions. I disagree for three reasons. First, unions already file detailed financial returns with the CRA, providing much of the information that would be required by this bill. This is a point Mr. Georgetti has acknowledged. Second, this bill would not require audited statements. Therefore, filing would not impose any additional outside expense on labour organizations. Filing could generally be prepared by their own bookkeeping or financial personnel. Finally, because of bookkeeping software and electronic filing, the cost of compliance with these sorts of requirements has dropped considerably from where it might have been in generations past.

The government's document production cost will be minimal once the electronic production system, the database and the website are in place.

Members do not have to take it on faith, though. We have an independent and qualified watchdog in the form of the parliamentary budget officer, who examines private members' bills and gives feedback on their estimated costs. I believe that the PBO's analysis will confirm that this bill would not create significant costs to the government.

The comments from other Canadians are also interesting. A columnist for The Windsor Star, a strong union town, is supportive of the bill. He only regrets that it is not retroactive, as he would like to see how his union dues have been spent in the past. The communications director of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, David Climenhaga, said the following of unions:

Many publish their complete audited financial results, in spite of the fact this is not required by law, and distribute them to 100 per cent of their membership. Any member of the public, of course, may access that information. Such complete openness seems to do them no harm.

Mr. Climenhaga suggests that the same level of transparency be extended to think tanks and private corporations that benefit from tax breaks and subsidies.

Of course, usually the member introducing a private member's bill is granted the privilege of introducing and speaking to his or her bill before any other members. Unfortunately, as members will be aware, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh jumped the gun and started the debate before this allotted hour under the guise of a point of order. Despite the positive comments of various union leaders, union members and others who I have just referenced, the NDP House leader suggested last fall, in debating my earlier bill, that he was very disturbed by the idea of public accountability for labour organizations. He stated that this bill was a matter of ideology. I would ask him if the introduction of public disclosure for charities way back in 1977, 35 years ago, was a matter of ideology.

If there is an ideology, it is based on the principle that organizations that receive public benefits should be accountable to disclose how they use those benefits. Does the member believe that charities should no longer have to publicly disclose their spending? What about government departments, crown corporations or even members of Parliament? Where does the opposition to this bill logically lead? As I stated earlier, I believe that public disclosure would increase the confidence of Canadians that the several hundred million dollars in public benefits they provide to unions each year is money well spent. Does the NDP not agree that public disclosure would indeed prove this?

Further, the member complained about the additional costs he believed disclosure would cause unions to incur. As I mentioned, using tax software and electronic filing, the costs to labour organizations would be quite minimal. Filing is not a new activity for unions. Unions already file tax returns each year. Much of the information proposed to be collected under this bill is already required. The difference, of course, is that this information would be made public. However, that difference alone would create no cost for labour organizations.

The member has raised the concern that the filing requirement could be onerous for small locals of perhaps a few dozen members. That is again not so. Small locals are, by definition, small spenders and may not have spent anything in several of the categories mentioned in the bill. What can be easier than putting a zero on several pages of an electronic form? I believe that the experience of charities over the last 35 years is instructive. The process has not bogged down charities, which, unlike unions, are often run by volunteers alone. The process has not cost them significant sums of money, and the same would be true for labour organizations.

The debate on this bill is just getting under way. Some have already taken a position on it. I would encourage those who have already stated opposition to the bill to consider the following facts. The bill would not tell union leaders how to spend their money or restrict them in any way. The bill would not place a substantial burden or expense on unions. Unions are already engaged in responsible accounting. Many unions are already publicly reporting this financial information to members and others. Finally, all unions are already filing much of this information with the Canada Revenue Agency through their tax returns.

Simply put, this bill would require that information to be made public. As I said before, people want to know how unions use their public benefits.

I believe that asking for that type of transparency is legitimate. Both the public and MPs can learn more about this bill on a dedicated website I have set up. The address is www.c377.ca.

I would encourage all members of this House to consider the merits of this bill and support it going forward for further study at committee.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

February 6th, 2012 / 11:20 a.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, in spite of the protest of innocence by the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, let there be no doubt at all that this is a frontal attack on the labour movement in this country. It is also an indirect but very clear attack on a number of other rights that Canadian citizens and residents have in this country: the right of association; the right, quite frankly, to privacy; and the right to freedom of speech within the right of association. The bill undermines all of those rights, if not completely doing away with them in some cases.

To stand in this House, as the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale just has, to say this is all about accountability and transparency and not about ideology is totally false.

Let us understand the context of the bill. The Bush Republicans did the same thing in the United States. However, they did not go nearly as far as the bill before us does. I have two quotes on the ideology, strategy and tactics behind this. The first is by Newt Gingrich, one of the leading members of the ideological right in the United States, who said that requiring detailed disclosure on union advocacy activities would “weaken our opponents and encourage our allies”.

Another right-wing U.S. activist, Grover Norquist, said:

Every dollar that is spent [by labour unions] on disclosure and reporting is a dollar that can't be spent on other labour union activities.

This was designed from an ideological standpoint, and in the case of Canada, from a big business, multinational standpoint. The support behind the bill comes from that same group, and that is what is driving it. This is not about accountability and transparency. The level of hypocrisy of the government in this regard I think speaks clearly to that. This is an attack on the labour movement in this country.

The bill, to a certain degree, is modelled after the legislation at the federal level in the United States, but it goes much further. For instance, the law in the United States only covers the national unions and the national association of unions. In Canada, it would cover every single union organization, even some of the trusts they have set up around health and safety and the environment and a number of activities they carry on for which they have trust funds. It would cover every single one of those organizations, including the small union local, several of which I have in my riding and that have an executive of four or five people with no full-time staff.

The member is being disingenuous at the very best with the House when he suggests this is not much more than what unions already have to prepare by way of reporting. That is absolutely false.

I repeat, the bill in the United States does not go nearly as far as this one does. However, even in the United States the national unions found they had to assign two people to it for almost half the year to do the additional reporting the bill required.

I cannot be much clearer than this in estimating the consequences of this, just as some of the labour movement cannot be much clearer, because the bill before us would allow for more information to be required of unions by way of legislation. Of course, we have not seen those regulations and would not see them for some time. However, just in terms what is being required of unions to report, it would increase dramatically the amount of reporting they have to do.

There is another pattern that I see here. I happened to be in Russia when Putin was still the head of the government, where he had developed a strategy that required a lot of human rights groups, a lot of NGOs, to do an excessive amount of reporting. It was phenomenal. I will give the member from Surrey credit for not going quite as far as Putin did in that legislation. However, it was clearly designed to undermine the human rights groups in Russia because of the amount of material they had to report.

The bill, to some degree, is modelled after the same type of experience, which has had the effect in Russia of destroying a number of the groups. Some have gone underground because they could not do the reporting.

Therefore, we have two nice models here, that of the right-wing Republicans in the United States and that of Putin in Russia. In both cases, they are very clearly attacking those specific groups. In the U.S. it is the labour movement; in Russia it is the human rights movement and those NGOs.

The other point I want to make in terms of the context of this is that it is quite clear, including from the survey the member mentioned, that the information is available and the Canadian public and union members are not aware of it. In addition to that, according to the Fraser Institute, which analyzed the U.S. legislation, the information required was extensive and highly complex. Again, here I would point out that the bill before us would at least double the amount of information that unions in Canada will have to provide.

The Fraser Institute, in September 2006, when it looked at the legislation and its effect in the U.S., stated that due to the large amounts of information available:

It is very difficult and time-consuming for an average person to easily obtain a realistic idea of the financial performance of a union—

Thus, while the U.S. legislation does disclose a great deal, it does not do so in a way that facilitates analysis and comprehension by average, interested citizens.

When the labour movement did the analysis, what happened there, as was the intention right from the beginning, was that large corporations wanted to know about the organizing activities of the labour unions that might be trying to organize the work force or the collective bargaining process. They got the information and used it extensively. This was really private information that in the past had never been disclosed and they used it against the labour movement, quite effectively in a number of cases.

In this case, Bill C-377 goes much further in terms of organizing activities. It even requires the disclosure of expenses with regard to whom they hired as their lawyer. That part of the bill is going to get struck down by a court fairly early on; no court in this land is going to allow that part of it to stay. The bill simply does not accomplish the purpose the member talks about, because it is so complex in terms of the amount of detail that unions will have to give. That was the U.S. experience, and ours is going to be even worse if we go ahead.

However, the people who are really after this, the people supporting the bill, the large corporations and the right-wing in our country, would be able to do so because they have the resources to use this data effectively to thwart organizing drives and other campaigns that a union may take on. That is what it is designed to do. It has been a very effective mechanisms in the United States to in fact accomplish that, and it is going to be even worse here. That is what this bill is all about.

It is important to appreciate as well that the Canadian people understand that information from the current reporting is available to all union members, either by way of provincial legislation or union constitution. Again, we have a problem with the bill because it probably extends itself into provincial territory, which will probably result in part of it to be struck down as well. Seven of the ten provinces require this information to be given to union membership. Every union constitution that I am aware of also requires consolidated financial statements to be given and made available to every single member of that union.

Let me finish with one final point and that is about the costs, which I believe the member is being disingenuous about with the House. There would be a huge increase in red tape from this file. If the government in fact follows through to enforce this, the number of people it will have to hire, we estimate, is somewhere in the range of at least a hundred people. A whole new data system would also have to be developed to analyze all of the data. We are talking of tens of millions, if not into the hundred million dollar range on an annual basis, of what it is going to cost.

If the government does not follow through, the information would simply be available and the big corporations would be able to use it against unions. That is what it is all about. One way or another, it would have the effect that the member wants, which is to give his “allies”, as Newt Gingrich put it, this information to fight their enemies.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

February 6th, 2012 / 11:40 a.m.
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Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I stand here before the House as a very proud 20-year union member of the Winnipeg Police Association, and I support the bill wholeheartedly because it is fair and it is transparent.

I congratulate the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale for his work on the bill. Since being elected in 2004, that member has been a very effective MP in the House and a great representative for his constituents. He also founded the all party parliamentary border caucus and he has been an important voice on border issues.

It is clear that today's bill has been very well researched, is highly informed and has already generated widespread support. I will share of that feedback later in my speech.

I would first like to briefly summarize the bill. Bill C-377 requires labour organizations to publicly disclose their finances. They would be required to produce standard financial information that would then be posted on the Canada Revenue Agency website.

This requirement would be similar to the one that already applies to charities. Members of labour organizations and the general public would therefore be able to assess the efficacy, financial integrity and health of all unions.

I encourage all Canadians to visit www.c377.ca, the website created by the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale in order to inform Canadians about this bill. Canadians can also download the petition, sign it and forward it to their neighbours to show their support for Bill C-377.

We all recognize that labour organizations play a key role in Canadian society by supporting workers' health and safety and ensuring that their members are appropriately compensated. However, we also acknowledge that the government provides substantial support to labour organizations through their tax-exempt status. Many have suggested that because the government provides financial support to these organizations, Canadians are entitled to accountability.

As we know, our Conservative government has been a strong supporter of great accountability. Our Conservative government introduced the Federal Accountability Act and other legislation designed to increase transparency in government agencies and crown corporations.

Bill C-377 would force labour organizations to make public certain information in order to allow their members and all Canadians to better assess the efficacy, financial integrity and health of labour organizations. In that regard, it is important to reiterate that charities that benefit from a similar tax exempt status have been required to publicly disclose this kind of information for decades.

As this bill goes through the legislative process, the Standing Committee on Finance will be able to give it a more thorough examination in order to ensure that it will achieve its objectives as effectively and efficiently as possible. To that end, the Standing Committee on Finance will hear from a number of groups with various perspectives. Many Canadians have already expressed their opinions regarding this bill.

It is important to share some of these insightful and well-informed opinions with the House and with all Canadians. Indeed, support for this bill extends well beyond partisan lines and has come from academics, labour, business, and everyday Canadians.

Even a former Liberal cabinet minister has voiced his support for Bill C-377. I want Canadians to listen to what a minister in Paul Martin's Liberal government had to say about this legislation. This is what Jean Lapierre, a former Liberal MP and cabinet minister from Quebec, had to say on the CTV news program Power Play:

Frankly, here in Quebec we have had that debate about the lack of transparency of a lot of unions. Frankly, I agree with that bill because I think now every organization has to be transparent. The unions, a lot of times, have acted like they were private clubs. And so I think everybody should go to more transparency and I think that the initiative is welcomed by the membership and also by the public at large because why would you hide your financial statements if you get all those tax credits and what have you. So no, I think it's long overdue.

This is what Louis Fortin, a certified human resources professional and associate researcher at the Montreal Economic Institute, said about this bill:

This bill will allow unionized employees to have a better understanding of the way in which the money from their union dues is managed and spent. Even though they already have the right to ask their representatives for [financial statements], union members could have easier and anonymous access to this information thanks to this new law.

Jasmin Guénette, vice-president at the Montreal Economic Institute, has also added that Bill C-377 is “good news for Quebeckers, who are 94.6% in favour of the detailed disclosure of unions' financial information, according to a recent Nanos poll”.

Niels Veldhuis and Amela Karabegovic, two economists with the Fraser Institute, from whom we will likely hear at the finance committee, have written extensively regarding the issues raised in this bill. They wrote a detailed op-ed in the National Post about this issue in the fall and offered some very interesting points. Let me quote in detail a somewhat lengthy passage from the op-ed that explains why this bill is so important for Canadian workers in particular:

The provision of publically disclosed information about the financial status of unions enables workers to assess more accurately the financial position, activities and performance of their representatives. The public disclosure of financial information allows workers and interested parties to determine the appropriateness and effectiveness of union spending. The increased transparency that comes from public disclosure is also essential for accountability and provides an incentive for union leaders to manage membership dues properly.

As I mentioned earlier, even unions have come out in favour of this bill. I am a union member, darn proud of it, and I support this bill 100%. Let me share with the House and Canadians what some of Canada's labour unions have been saying publicly about Bill C-377. For instance, this is what Lerona Lewis, president of McGill University's largest on-campus union, the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill which represents over 3,000 members, had to say: “You can go online to look to see what was spent, when it was spent, and so on...transparency is something we believe in anyway”.

Even media commentators are in favour of this legislation. This is what Windsor Star columnist Chris Vander Doelen had to say about it:

[Bill C-377] would require unions to file all their income and expenses, with the Canada Revenue Agency posting the results online just as they do for charities. Seems fair to me, since it's my money, and since unions are currently tax free, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars annually in forgone government income that could go to pay for, say, health care.

Of course, the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale is counting on many Canadians to support his efforts to increase transparency and accountability. I look forward to the results of the work done by the Standing Committee on Finance on this proposal.

Once again, I am a proud union member of the Winnipeg Police Association. I support this bill because it brings fairness and transparency to this issue. Any members on that side of the House who claim to be against transparency and against fairness ought to explain why the heck they are sitting in the House of Commons. That is what the business of this House is all about, fairness and transparency for all Canadians.

Income Tax ActRoutine Proceedings

December 5th, 2011 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Conservative South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-377, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations).

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to introduce a bill that would amend the Income Tax Act for labour organizations.

Labour organizations play a valuable role in society, representing and defending the rights of workers to health and safety on the job and ensuring that they have proper compensation for the work they do. As a result of the valuable role that they play, our government has provided substantial benefits through the Income Tax Act to support the work of labour organizations.

This bill would amend the Income Tax Act to require the public disclosure of labour organization finances. Public disclosure will help the public better understand how the benefits that are provided are being utilized. This is in line with the increased transparency we have introduced for government departments, agencies and native reserves. It is also in line with the public disclosure required of charities and political parties, which also receive substantial public benefits through the tax system.

I want to note that public disclosure is strongly supported by the Canadian public and by union workers themselves.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)