Conservative MP Russ Hiebert is crying foul after the Canadian Senate voted Wednesday to amend his private member’s bill calling for greater transparency and disclosure of union finances through the Income Tax Act.
The Senate has sent the bill back to the House of Commons for reconsideration.
“The… amendments adopted by the Senate today have the effect of gutting (Bill) C-377, as the bill would now only apply to unions with more than 50,000 members,” the South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale MP said in a news release.
Hiebert said “unjustified” amendments that make the bill apply to only “a handful” of the biggest unions “completely undermines the principle that transparency should apply to all labour organizations, equally.”
Senate opposition leader Senator James Cowan said in a release that the amendments, which raise the disclosure threshold of union salaries from $10,000 to $444,661, bring the bill in line with disclosure thresholds proposed for a number of Crown corporations.
“One of the key amendments… (brings in) standards of disclosure and transparency that – if they are sufficient for government and the public service – should also be suitable for unions and other organizations,” he said.
He said the Senate committee on Banking Trade and Commerce had heard from 44 witnesses, five provincial governments, labour organizations, academics and professional associations “who overwhelmingly opposed this legislation, particularly on the basis of constitutionality.”
The committee had shared its serious concerns in its report, he said, and senators from both sides chose as a whole to “improve” the bill.
Hiebert said that suggesting C-377 only apply to unions with more than 50,000 members is “arbitrary.”
“It is also unsupported by the evidence that both the Commons and the Senate heard from dozens of witnesses, including labour organizations themselves,” he said.
“I didn’t hear a single witness suggest that unions with fewer than 50,000 members should be able to avoid transparency.”
Hiebert added that returning the bill to the House of Commons does not spell the end of the legislation.
“Fortunately this is not the end of the process,” he said. “When the bill returns to the Commons, I trust that MPs will agree that all labour organizations should be treated equally and subject to the same standards for transparency.”