Madam Speaker, I thank all of my colleagues who have spoken on the bill thus far.
This exercise is not so much about outlining the vision of the legislation that we have before us, but about untangling what has been tangled before. Therefore, we now find ourselves in this position where we are taking back two particular bills.
I will not specifically address the issue of private members' bills and how they are being used, whether for nefarious reasons or not. Personally, I respect private members' bills, no matter what they are. They are from a member and there is a reason they exist. However, I would like to attack these particular bills based on their policies and how they are unfair in this context.
Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 were bills that I did not support from the beginning. Therefore, we need to undo what has been done in order to proceed any further, and Bill C-4 would do just that.
Both Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 passed without the extensive consultation process traditionally used for labour relations law reform. This is what we call the tripartite way of doing things. We have the government, the union and organized labour and, of course, we have the employers, all of which need to be consulted on something as important as this, because it affects so many Canadians across the country. Changes to labour relations legislation has always been preceded by this.
I have two examples of how this was done. I would like to bring these examples to the House because they illustrate the way things should be done using the tripartite process.
In 1995, the Sims task force did extensive public consultations on part 1 of the Canada Labour Code, and included labour, employers, and government stakeholders. The name of the report is “Seeking a Balance”, which formed the basis of major changes that came into effect in 1999. Going further back to 1978, the second example I would like to use, was the Woods task force, which was another tripartite consultative process. It was used to bring about change to the federal industrial relations system.
However, with Bill C-377 and Bill C-525, there was not much consultation. I am not sure of all the work that the members did in response to these two bills, but I would assume that the opposition during the committee process both here in the House and in the Senate illustrates that a lot of consultation did not take place in this tripartite manner.
I will go to the part where the bill talks about some of the other non-labour practices of the former government. Of course, in many situations the Conservatives went against many of the unions and organized labour, and a result caused a very poisoned atmosphere over the past while. Whenever we heard the government talk about big union bosses and the like, it created a stir among organized labour and many governments, both provincial and here in Ottawa.
Here are some of the rules the Conservatives brought in: a requirement to provide information on the time spent by officers on political lobbying, which would then be made publicly available on the Canada Revenue Agency's website; and an obligation on unions to provide their financial statements to their own members for free and when they are asked for it.
This was almost a situation where the Conservatives wanted to create a solution to a problem that did not exist. They did so without the right amount of consultation and, as a result, neglected to see some of the steps that had been taken over the past 20 to 25 years by organized labour, employers and the associations they are represented by.
Bill C-377 was directed solely at labour organizations, and that was quite evident during the evidence that was given here in the House and in both House and Senate committees. It was directed at labour trusts and not at any other professional associations, which, by the way, benefited from similar treatment under the Income Tax Act, but they were not specifically told to be more transparent as well.
As hon. colleagues will recall, the Minister of National Revenue has waived the reporting requirements for 2016 in Bill C-377 knowing that we intend to work to repeal the bill.
I will go back to the debate that took place, before we get into Bill C-4. When Bill C-377 went to the Senate, a colleague of ours by the name of Hugh Segal, a Conservative senator at the time, was vociferously against the bill, to the point where he had brought amendments that were accepted at the time. I will read an editorial he did after retiring from the Senate about how he was against Bill C-377 and its fundamental principles. I will quote from his editorial:
The Canadian Bar Association questioned its constitutionality, as it sought to circumvent normal provincial jurisdiction over labour relations and trade unions by imposing Canada Revenue Agency reporting requirements via federal statute.
There he talked about the constitutional crisis that had been raised by this particular situation. We can question the constitutionality of the bill as defined by the powers directed by the provincial governments and the federal government, which are laid out quite clearly.
Former Conservative Senator Hugh Segal went on to say:
There was also the issue raised by many witnesses before the committee that reporting relationships for small expenditures being imposed on unions and union locals were not being imposed on other corporate or charitable/not-for-profit groups.
We saw this in the House of Commons testimony as well, when witnesses talked about how the same onus was not put on other associations to divulge or make transparent the activities they do and the contributions they receive, including from whom, which really would have created a balance.
The imbalance during labour negotiations was also talked about and mentioned in Hugh Segal's article and the point was made that information would be divulged by local labour organizations to the point where it would put them at a distinct disadvantage in certain negotiations.
I want to thank him for doing that, because I thought that in earnest he had put together some very viable amendments. Let us face it, like every bill of this size, there are good points and there are bad points, but Conservative Senator Hugh Segal attempted to make amendments. I should not say “attempted”, because he actually did make them. His amendments were accepted by members of the Senate, and then the bill was sent back here to the House for it to address it once more with those fixes in place. The House was prorogued.
Here, I know that everyone is just waiting to hear how this works, right? It is that type of day.