- C-377 Français
Jean Lapierre, a former Liberal MP and cabinet minister from Quebec, had to say on the CTV news program Power Play:
Frankly, here in Quebec we have had that debate about the lack of transparency of a lot of unions. Frankly, I agree with that bill because I think now every organization has to be transparent. The unions, a lot of times, have acted like they were private clubs. And so I think everybody should go to more transparency and I think that the initiative is welcomed by the membership and also by the public at large because why would you hide your financial statements if you get all those tax credits and what have you. So no, I think it’s long overdue.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business:
Did you know that workers in virtually all unionized workplaces in Canada are required to pay full union dues, even if they choose not to be a member of the union?
We believe that’s wrong.
That’s why we support Bill C-377, requiring unions to publicly disclose their financial statements. We only think it fair that unions be held to a higher standard of accountability when they rely on compulsory dues to fund their existence.
Jasmin Guénette, vice-president at the Montreal Economic Institute, stated that Bill C-377 is:
“good news for Quebeckers, who are 94.6% in favour of the detailed disclosure of unions’ financial information, according to a recent Nanos poll.”
Niels Veldhuis and Amela Karabegovic, two economists with the Fraser Institute, have written extensively regarding the issues raised in this bill. They wrote a detailed op-ed in the National Post about this issue:
The provision of publically disclosed information about the financial status of unions enables workers to assess more accurately the financial position, activities and performance of their representatives. The public disclosure of financial information allows workers and interested parties to determine the appropriateness and effectiveness of union spending. The increased transparency that comes from public disclosure is also essential for accountability and provides an incentive for union leaders to manage membership dues properly.
Retired Supreme Court Justice Michel Bastarache:
“I conclude that, if Bill C-377 is enacted into law, it would likely be upheld by the courts as a valid enactment of Federal Parliament’s power over taxation under section 91(3) of the Constitution Act, 1867. […] As long as the pith and substance or matter of Bill C-377 is related to taxation, the law is a valid enactment of Parliament’s powers,” said M. Bastarache. “Because Bill C-377 does not attempt to regulate the activities of labour organizations or determine how they spend their money, it is unlikely that a court would find that it limits freedom of association under section 2(d) of the Charter.”
Marc Roumy, a member of the Canadian Union of Public Employees for 16 years:
Many of my colleagues and I believe our union would be stronger if we had truly open easy access to our union’s financial statements. If there is nothing to hide, then we should be able to get detailed financial statements, which we have fought for years.
To conclude, Bill C-377’s online approach is a necessary antidote to all that I have just related to you. Transparency is a necessary public good that few willingly offer up, as you can see from my experience with CUPE.
Mr. Gregory Thomas (Federal and Ontario Director, Canadian Taxpayers Federation):
Our organization supports this legislation. We believe that similar legislation has been in place for charities for many years. The vast amount of tax relief afforded to labour organizations in the form of tax deductibility for union dues, tax-free status for core operations of labour organizations, and tax-free strike pay creates a public policy interest in having disclosure.
John Mortimer, President CanadianLabourWatch Association:
In Canada, our labour and tax laws allow unionized employees to be forced to pay union dues as a condition of their employment. Not every Canadian collective agreement forces unionized employees to actually join the union, but all unionized employees, members and non-members of the union must pay dues or be fired by the employer upon union demand. […]Unions can spend this tax-privileged money on anything, including items that go far beyond representing employees at work: e.g., political parties, front groups that run American-style attack ads, think tanks and advocacy groups that oppose the existence of companies employing dues paying Canadians. […]Union tax privileges and powers are unique. Labour organizations and taxpayers will be better off when operating in the light of financial disclosure.
Mr. Terrance Oakey, President, Merit Canada:
I think Canadians deserve to know how the so-called superunion plans to use the hundreds of millions of dollars at its disposal to achieve that end. Labour organizations, quite frankly, enjoy a more privileged position in our society and economy than any other entity, yet they have no public reporting requirements, unlike charities; publicly traded companies; federal, provincial, and municipal governments; government agencies; boards; crown corporations; first nations bands; foundations; political parties; and MPs, senators, and MLA offices. In opposing Bill C-377, labour leaders suggest that Canada is proposing some new, radical terrain. In reality, Canada is simply catching up with the rest of the developed world. Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, Ireland, the U.K., and the United States all have some form of financial union disclosure that surpasses what exists in Canada.
Philip Hochstein, President, Independent Contractors and Business Association of British Columbia:
“A Nanos poll done in 2011 found that 83 per cent of Canadians want it; 86 per cent of union members want it; and Canadians deserve it. Unions get very special treatment from government and taxpayers. If this situation is to continue, we need to share just what they are spending these dollars on. The only way union members and taxpayers can be confident they are getting good value for the millions invested this year is through Bill C-377. Former Justice Bastarache laid out a clear argument: The bill is constitutional.”
Moin A. Yahya, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Alberta, as an individual:
“I have reviewed some of the arguments made by the bill’s opponents. I have watched the tapes in the previous week. I will focus on the division of powers argument. If time permits, I will speak a bit about the freedom of association. If not, I will leave that to questions.
The argument against the constitutionality of this bill goes as follows: Since this bill regulates labour, and since labour is provincial, this bill is unconstitutional.
This argument fails for the following reasons: First, the bill does not regulate behaviour of labour organizations. It is simply a disclosure requirement. It is a collection of statistics; it requires disclosure under the Income Tax Act for the very reason that union dues are tax deductible. Similarly, if charitable organizations that are incorporated provincially want to issue a tax-deductible receipt, they have to go to Revenue Canada and comply with federal tax legislation. This puts the unions on the same footing as charitable organizations, which have been under this legislation for many years. It is as onerous for charities, some of which are only three- or four-person organizations, to fill out that paper work as it would be for unions to fill out this sort of paperwork.”