Bill targets unions

Letter writer upset over financial disclosure legislation proposed for unions

Bill C-377 requires public financial disclosure for labour organizations. Interestingly, this is the exact situation that applies to professional associations like doctors, lawyers and accountants to name a few, who also pay  “union dues” or commonly called ‘professional fees.  All of these other professional fees or union dues are 100 per cent tax deductible, and are in fact regulated by the same section of the Income Tax Act but they are not affected by bill C-377.  So here is the intent to punish the blue collar, middle class, unionized workers but leave the white collar professionals alone.

I and all brothers and sisters are given the unions financial statement once a year.

These financial statements are audited for us by accountants. This audit not only goes to the membership it is also given to Victoria. We know exactly what our finances are and how our money is made and spent.

The transparency that the Conservatives say needs to be addressed is addressed with these financial statements.

But that is not what this bill about, but rather it is about disclosing all my union’s business, pension plan, welfare plan, education and training trusts, and all other plans and trusts my union maintains.

In a letter to James Rajotte, chairperson of the Standing Committee on Finance, dated Sept. 17, the Canadian Bar  Association states:

“Re: Bill C-377, Income Tax Act amendments (requirements for labour organizations)

“As a threshold statement, it is unclear what issue or perceived problem the bill is intended to address. The bill mandates greater public disclosure of details of the financial operations of labour unions, and limitations on their political and lobbying activities using mechanisms that could be problematic from a constitutional and a privacy perspective.

“The CBA Sections have serious reservations about the bill from a procedural point of view. The bill could have a pronounced impact on the operations of labour unions, yet these processes are embedded in amendments to the Income Tax Act. In our view, it is inappropriate for operational restrictions to be brought forward as amendments to taxation legislation.”

The CBA goes on to say:

“Federal and provincial labour legislation already imposes obligations on labour unions to publish or make available regular financial statements to their members, and some of those obligations are quite extensive. Labour organizations operate for the benefit of their membership and in this way more closely resemble that of a closed corporation.

“The governance and transparency of the organization should be a matter of general concern to its membership, not the public at large.

“The additional cost of administration to meet the Bill’s requirement would be significant.

“Unions could be forced to raise dues or reduce services to their members. If dues are raised, unions may in turn seek higher wages to compensate members, potentially resulting in increased costs for employers.

“Finally, the federal government could also be subject to significant new costs to administer its own obligations under the bill.”

It is ironic that the Conservatives who are all about getting rid of red tape, i.e. gun registration, now want to add another layer of red tape during their governance.  This bill will in effect register our unions much like the long-gun registry.

There will be a lot of red tape with a lot of civil servants hired to manage the process.

Bill C-377 is an anti-union bill that is not about disclosure and transparency but rather its intent is to give the non-union, anti-union,  merit contractors a leg up in dealing with construction unions and costs that will be excessive to all unions and their membership.

Not to mention the costs to the Canadian taxpayer, who will pay for the thousands of civil servants to scrutinize and audit this information that is already given to all the union’s membership.

Chuck Johnson

Vernon