Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to be here. For the people who are watching from home, it is a bad day in Ottawa outside of this place. The snow is falling and they are predicting over a foot of snow here. Traffic has come to a halt almost, yet it is warm in here.
We are discussing Bill C-4, and it is always a pleasure when we can stand and debate the issues.
It is kind of a bad day in here as well for the governing party. One of the first things the Liberals did was take away the First Nations Financial Transparency Act. The second thing they did was pull our troops out of the war against ISIL. Now they have Bill C-4.
The majority of people in my riding of Battle River—Crowfoot would oppose Bill C-4.
Bill C-4 is an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Income Tax Act. As we have already heard today, the previous Conservative government already passed amendments to the Labour Code and these three statutes.
The amendments improved two key laws on democracy and union transparency. Bill C-377 provided more accountability for union leaders. Bill C-525 required the holding of a secret ballot for the creation or abolition of trade unions. Now the Liberal government is saying, who needs secret ballots?
What about accountability? The Liberals have never liked accountability. That is why it was up to the Conservative Party to move the Federal Accountability Act as our first measure when we formed government.
As a government, we stood up on behalf of union workers. I remember the day the member brought this forward as a private member's bill. He came around and spoke to us. He talked about the union workers who had said they were having difficulty getting that type of accountability or knowing where their money was being spent.
Everyone knows that some Canadian workers are forced to pay union dues. Until the previous government took action, union bosses, those people who are in charge of the management of a union, did not consult the workers about decisions they had made on behalf of their. Union bosses were not held accountable for their management of the union dues they collected. There was a lack of transparency and accountability when It came to the actions involving where those dollars were to be spent.
There were no rules or regulations that said that the leadership was under any obligation to open the books so union members could see for themselves the various ways that the union leaders were spending union dues. Canadians could not see how much money was raised by any given union. Canadians could not see how any given union was spending its money. It was one big secret.
Sometimes the secrecy extended to union members themselves. They could not see the books of their own union. Some unions would allow members to see the books at a union meeting. Sometimes one had to ask to see the books of one's own union. Imagine anyone doing that. In all honesty, imagine a worker risking being blackballed by the union. The union could very well ask members why they wanted to see that, what they wanted, and what they were looking for. It could ask if there was there something that was bothering them or ask why they needed the information because nobody else had asked for it. Now all of a sudden the union member is the one who is almost guilty of wanting transparency. Too many union members could be intimidated to do whatever was necessary to try to see the books.
Not all union members are accountants. They do not all have commerce degrees. They are not all able to look at the books on the screen and have the union bosses stand over them, or take it home. They wanted the ability to see where some of their dollars were being spent. They may not be able to read the 100 pages of a document, while union bosses are standing over them trying to figure out what part of the document the member might want to see and for what reason he or she might want to see it.
I remember when Mr. Hiebert asked me to support the bill. He talked about the number of members who had come to him in regard to it. He had studied it. He had thought there must be more transparency than there was. He worked with opposition and government members, and he tried to drum up support for his private member's bill.
A lot of the new members across the way will find out about the process of a private member's bill. First, they will find out how difficult it is to be in that lottery and to get their name drawn, and then how difficult it is to actually work it through, especially in a majority government. I remember Mr. Russ Hiebert doing that.
I also remember union people coming in on both sides, questioning why we were doing it. I remember both union bosses and members thanking us, saying that it was about time.
The legislation he brought forward in that private member's bill lifted the veil of secrecy off the union spending. Any union member, from the comfort and safety of their home, could see their unions' books, could go through it line by line, and see where the money was being spent.
We simply made it so the leaders of the unions would make public their decisions concerning the expenditure of the union dues they had collected and any other monies that were given or raised by the union.
I think Canadians would agree that this was a fair measure. A union is a public institution. It is not a profit-chasing corporation competing in the marketplace where there may be some secrets as far as marketing their product. I think most Canadians realize that charities have to do it, as do many other different groups. It is reasonable.
The second change that the previous Conservative government made to the way that unions were run in Canada was to increase the level of democracy in how unions operated in Canada. We are a democratic country. We take very serious our democracy. We govern ourselves using the method of a secret ballot. This provides a voter with the highest level of democracy and the most freedom.
Canadians would agree that unions should also conduct their affairs at the highest level of democracy. We made the change to stop workers, union members, from having to publicly inform their colleagues whether they may actually support their union, or whether certain changes that they wanted within their union did not force them to stand up publicly when a secret ballot could really have them voice their concerns.
Our changes freed workers from pressure. Both before and during the election campaigns, unions spent millions of dollars to straight partisan ends. Union bosses can do that because they are under no obligation to tell anyone if they did. My wife is in a union; she is a registered nurse. She told me about the day, and I think it was before I was elected, when the union boss came from Edmonton to our little town and told the registered nurses how they would vote. She was sitting in the meeting. She questioned it. All of a sudden there were hums and haws, but it was intimidation. Union bosses can do that because they are under no obligation for anything.
Some unions do tell what they will do and how they are involved, but some union bosses proudly provide details of how they spend union dues fighting a political party that in some cases supported many members of that very union.
I believe, with all due respect, that the measure we are debating today is payback to the unions for them showing up when the now Prime Minister made announcements. We saw the emails. We saw them go out. They would say that Justin was in town, that they needed 100 people in the picture. I think we are now seeing some of that payback.
Other unions do say how their money is being spent. Again, we wanted to see transparency. We want to see measures brought forward so that democracy was enhanced even within the unions.
Our previous government gave union members the right to know what was going on within their union. It also gave them the right to vote. Why? Because the union is an important institution. The union, in some places, can intervene on behalf of their workers. When we do not have transparency, pretty soon we have an institution that crumbles.