Fighting Back Against Bill C-377

December 13, 2012, 3:30 PM EST

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CAW President Ken Lewenza blasted the Harper government for pushing ahead with Bill C-377 at a time when food inspectors are being laid off, vital Coast Guard communications stations and many, many other public services are being slashed.

He said the legislation will bring with it significant costs to the federal government to establish and run the structures each year needed to record and publish onerous details on union finances. He said this is something which makes no sense at a time when there is a 31 per cent increase in the number of Canadians who need food banks.

Lewenza said this private members bill isn't really about transparency but is instead an attack on the labour movement in Canada that will serve as a basis for further ongoing attacks on unions and the labour movement, including renewed assaults on the Rand Formula.

The Bill was approved in the House of Commons December 12 by a vote of 147 to 135 with five Conservatives voting against it and 13 other Conservatives absent. Although the vast majority of NDP and Liberals attended and voted no, some NDP and Liberal MPs were absent.

"It's about destroying the labour movement and it's about destroying the middle class," said Lewenza. He said it's all part of Stephen Harper's National Citizens Coalition agenda. Harper was president of the right-wing NCC lobby group from 1998 to 2002 prior to becoming Prime Minister.

Prior to the vote on December 11, CAW activists, members and leadership visited a number of Conservative MP's constituency offices including Tory MPs in Oshawa, Windsor, London, Mississauga-Brampton, Sault Ste. Marie, Kitchener-Waterloo, Halton and Elmwood-Transcona in Manitoba.

Council delegates slammed the Conservative government's attack on the labour movement through Bill C-377, which imposes enormous administrative burdens on national unions and local unions to report finances.

They echoed concerns that Bill C-377 is really about union busting and they outlined further concerns about the fact pro-business organizations and right wing lobby groups like Merit Canada or the National Citizens Coalition aren't required to meet the same financial reporting standards.  

Lewenza stressed the CAW is a democratic organization that is already transparent and accountable. The CAW's audited financial statements are distributed semi-annually to all CAW locals and all CAW Council delegates. In addition, they are available on request to any CAW member. Labour boards in most Canadian jurisdictions also already require unions' audited financial statements to be accessible to any union member.

Some key facts on Bill C-377:

  • The Canada Revenue Agency estimates Bill C-377 will cost more than $20 million to establish and nearly $ 4 million every year to operate;
  • The Canadian Bar Association says it is unconstitutional and Canada's Privacy Commissioner says it "is a serious breach of privacy" for individual Canadians and commercial businesses.

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