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We hope you all had (or are having) a good rest over the holiday break.
If you recall, January 1, 2016 was the date that Bill 377 – the Bill that the Harper Conservatives introduced and passed which would impose heavy reporting obligations upon Unions and other related organizations, under the pretext of freedom of information. Well, on December 21, 2015, the Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Revenue, announced she has waived reporting requirements for labour organizations and labour trusts. Click here to see the press release from the federal government. Below is a statement on the issue from Bob Blakely, the Canadian Operating Officer for out Canada’s Building Trades Unions.
Canada’s Building Trades Unions Welcome the Announcement on Bill C 377
On behalf of Canada’s Building Trades Unions, representing over 500,000 Canadians, Bob Blakely, Canadian Operating Officer said: “During the debate on these onerous, narrowly targeted amendments the Liberal and New Democratic parties stood up for Canadian unionized workers. Now that the Liberals have formed government one of their first acts was to restore fairness in respect of the confidentiality of union financial information and allowing unions to be treated like every other tax entity in Canada. We are grateful to them for living up to their promises and to treating us with fairness and with respect.”
Bill C 377, a Private Member’s Bill, only had support from some of the Conservative caucus but found wide support with the MERIT Contractors and their interlinking partners LabourWatch and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. These are organizations that do not have unionized workers. The purposes behind this legislation was to compel unions and any organization that had a relationship with unions such as health, welfare, pension, training, apprenticeship plans set up by a collective agreement to disclose any and all financial information that they had on a public government funded website. The goal of the legislation was to give antiunion organizations an intelligence bonanza and weaken Canadian unions in the process. No other similar organization, including employers’ organizations such as the supporters of this Bill, would have had to surrender their business confidentiality to the benefit of their competitors.
Lionel Railton, Canadian Director of the International Union of Operating Engineers stated “As Canadians, we file our taxes and make disclosures to the Canada Revenue Agencies, we all have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Unions should be able to expect that degree of privacy. As well, we have business interests and we seek to achieve common goals through communal action – – no one expects other similar organizations to give up their privacy!”
Finally, the Bill C377 amendments were subject to court challenge, some of which have already been filed, and others which awaited the coming into force date of January 1, 2016. Blakely said about this aspect “it seems pretty clear that the amendments were not about the Income Tax Act, but rather about the regulation of the trade unions which is a constitutional power reserved to the provinces and 7 of the provinces actively opposed the Bill. The amendments curtail communal action and the right of free speech in breach of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It would’ve only been a matter of time until Bill C377 was struck down. The new Government knew that and acted positively to avoid needless litigation. We are grateful for their careful and forceful attention to this matter.”
In conclusion, Blakely stated “we greatly appreciate a government that actually follows through on their election promises.”
Today marks the beginning of a new age of cooperation between the Building Trades Unions in Canada and the federal government. What do you think the future holds? Let us know here.