Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate and perhaps go back for a second or two and think about transparency, because the bill talks about unions and transparency. Let me give a couple of examples of transparency inside a union. As I said, I can do that from personal experience because I spent three terms-plus as the financial officer in one of the largest local unions in the country. I actually know of what I speak because I used to have to do it.
Here is a bit about transparency. I was empowered to spend up to $100 if I asked the executive board. However, on the government side, the Conservatives have an agreement called a FIPA with China. There is no transparency with that. They are not talking to us about it in the House of Commons, let alone to the Canadian public. We have on the union side, transparency, and on the government side, no transparency.
Then if we wanted to spend more than $100, I had to go to the executive board and ask, get approval and then take it to our membership's monthly meeting and say to the members what we would like to do, how much we would like to spend and ask if they would approve it and accept their judgment. Again, that is openness and transparency. What do we have on the other side? We have the Nexen deal from last Friday. Yes, we kind of did know and we kind of did not, but only under exceptional circumstances might we do it again. We asked the Prime Minister what those exceptional circumstances were. The reply was that the government could not tell us that yet.
On our side, we have the union movement, openness, transparency. On the government, side there is hiding, secretive, opaque, “let us not tell them, why should we ever tell the Canadian public anything”. Yet on the union side, we tell our members everything. Not only because we have an obligation through our constitutions, but we have an obligation to consult with them because we believe that consultation process should be upheld. We believe in openness and transparency with them, much to the chagrin of the member who brought the bill forward.
I am not so sure he ever belonged to a union. Perhaps he should have talked to those of us who were in the union movement first and we could have helped him explain that. Then again, he would not have been in the pockets of the Merit group. In which case when we talk to local 27 carpenters' union in Toronto about how they will then have to open up their collective agreements, the Conservatives always talk about not taking sides in the commercial environment.
The Merit group, a non-union contractor in the province of Ontario and across the country, can find out what that carpenters' local union, local 27 in Toronto, might be trying to do as it bids on work because of its ability to see inside the collective agreements. What benefit would that be to them? Perhaps they could undercut them. Perhaps they could ensure they did not certify a union if there were a union attempt. Again, local 27 is geared by openness and transparency for its membership and we have a government that is not.
I have a final piece of openness and transparency when it comes to the finances of unions. The financial officers are ultimately held responsible for the finances of the union. I know that all too well, having been one for a long period of time, elected in three consecutive terms. It says something about how I told my members what I did with their money, as I was obligated to do, and fulfilled the obligation. They elected me three times so I guess I fulfilled the obligation. That becomes the other open and transparent piece: their right to remove me as they see fit. In fact, they can recall me. My friends across the way at one time believed in that, but that has gone away. We still believe in it. Inside many unions across the country, they can still recall that individual elected official if they choose, but they certainly can replace that person at an election. Again, it is open, transparent and democratic.
Then there is CETA, the greatest hidden piece of free trade agreement with one of the largest economic blocks in the world, and not one single solitary syllable has been mentioned in the House from the Conservative government to anyone else, not even to their own backbenchers.
What do we have on this side? A union that is open, transparent, democratic. On that side it is opaque, undemocratic, collusive almost and certainly not forthcoming when it comes to information.
Perhaps they will finally bring their information forward about the FIPA with China, about the Nexen deal and about the CETA agreement. Perhaps we would then finally have that sense of openness.
Quite a few of my colleagues on this side of the House are from the union movement, as one the members mentioned before. We are proud to say that and happy to stand up and tell members about it, because at the end of the day, the only target is clearly the union movement. It is the only one that has been targeted in this legislation.
If the member wanted openness and transparency, then he would have lumped in all of the other great bastions of democracy, the C.D. Howe Institute, the taxpayers' federation, the National Citizens Coalition, all of those great groups that are transparent and open and tell us all of the things they do.