Questions & Answers

  • Q. Why should the general public be able to see the financials of unions they are not members of or contributing dues to? 
    A. There is a genuine public purpose served by requiring financial transparency in all institutions that receive a substantial public benefit.  We do it in government, in crown corporations and in charities.  Now I’m proposing we extend it to another set of institutions that enjoy public benefits – unions.
  • Q. Don’t the provinces already have disclosure legislation?
    A. 7 of 10 provinces have some disclosure requirements in their labour codes for financial disclosure to union members.  However, this bill is focussed on the public disclosure of finances because of the public tax benefits these institutions receive.
  • Q. Why is the list of financial items a union must report larger than that required of charities?
    A. The list of statements that a union would file is longer than that of charities, but this simply recognizes the fact that unions are often more complex financial organizations that administer numerous funds for activities such as training, education and so on.
  • Q. What will this cost?
    A. Using a standardized system of electronic filing and posting, any cost to government or the unions will be quite minimal.
  • Q. Is there a problem with the way unions spend their money?
    A. On the contrary. Public disclosure will increase the confidence of Canadians that unions spend their money wisely and effectively.
  • Q. Why are non-labour-relations-type spending activities specifically identified as something unions must report?
    A. The comprehensive list of schedules identified as requiring public disclosure will aid the public in gauging the effectiveness, financial integrity and health of Canada’s unions.
  • Q. Isn’t this bill designed to attack the NDP?
    A. This bill is something that not only 83% of Canadians surveyed indicate they want, but 86% of union members surveyed also say they want public disclosure. Public disclosure will demonstrate that unions spend their money wisely, effectively and obtain good value for members’ dues. To suggest that this is somehow an attack on the NDP or the labour movement is a fiction – the reality is the vast majority of labour union members themselves want this legislation!
  • Q. Will union leaders be forced to disclose their salaries?
    A. Yes. This is becoming the standard for more and more institutions that receive public benefits. For instance, the salary, benefits and operating costs of Members of Parliament, MLAs and others are easy to obtain on-line. Unions will come to support this too, because the public will see that their salaries and benefits are reasonable, that there is no nepotism, and that unions achieve good value for money.
  • Q. Do you expect the opposition to oppose this bill?
    A. Usually, political parties will treat private members bills as free votes and I would hope that this legislation is no different. Regardless, the opposition parties should look at the benefits this bill provides in demonstrating to the public the good work that unions do. Given that this bill is heavily supported by unionized workers one would hope that many NDP MPs in particular will say ‘yes’ to this step forward.
  • Q. Some union leaders are opposing this bill – why?
    A. As with any legislation, there will likely be a variety of opinions expressed. However, most Canadian union leaders recognize the generous public benefits their unions receive, and generally agree with the principle of being transparent and accountable. This bill does not in any way restrict the activities of unions, will not result in significant costs to unions, and public disclosure is supported by the vast majority of union members, so most union leaders will not oppose this bill.
  • Q. Is there public support for this bill?
    A. There is broad public support for this concept. A 2011 Nanos poll of 1000 Canadians found 83% support for requiring unions to publicly disclose their finances – the same question found 86% of union members agreeing with public disclosure (Labour Day Poll.)