Watson Burns LLP

Watson Burns LLP

February 17, 2012 16:22 ET

Conservative MP Russ Hiebert Introduces Anti-Labour Bill

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Feb. 17, 2012) - On December 5th, 2011 Conservative MP Russ Hiebert (South Surrey - White Rock - Cloverdale) introduced a Private Member's Bill entitled An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (Requirements for Labour Organizations). This Bill would require unions to file a detailed financial statement with the government that would be made available to the public.

This Bill is a modified version of a Bill (C-317) that Mr. Hiebert introduced previously, on October 3rd, 2011. Bill C-317 was defeated by the NDP, which successfully argued that because the Bill would have tax consequences, it ought to have been introduced via a ways and means bill. Mr. Hiebert modified his Bill to avoid this problem and reintroduced it as Bill C-377.

The new Bill was discussed in the House of Commons on February 6th, 2012. Mr. Hiebert compared the requirements the Bill would impose to the reports that charities are required to submit. Mr. Hiebert argued that his Bill would actually improve public confidence in unions by allowing the public to see how unions spend their funds.

NDP and Liberal MPs attacked the Bill, asking why the Conservatives are so interested in transparency when it comes to unions, but not when it comes to their own government. Joe Comartin, NDP MP for Windsor - Tecumseh, pointed out that the Bill was very similar to proposed legislation in the United States, which had been supported by rabid anti-union politicians such as Newt Gingrich. Mr. Comartin quoted Mr. Gingrich as saying that requiring detailed disclosure of union advocacy activities would "weaken our opponents and encourage our allies". Mr. Comartin quoted another right-wing politician as stating: "Every dollar that is spent [by labour unions] on disclosure and reporting is a dollar that can't be spent on other labour union activities."

Mr. Hiebert tried to defend his Bill by arguing that the costs associated with reporting would be low, given the availability of electronic reporting and bookkeeping. In response, Yvon Godin, NDP MP for Acadie - Bathurst, asked how the Conservatives can claim the gun registry to be so expensive, given these easy reporting tools.

In the Canadian Labour Reporter, Ken Georgetti, President of the Canadian Labour Congress, accused Mr. Hiebert of "trying to create an issue that doesn't exist".

Watson Burns LLP is a labour and employment law firm with offices in Toronto and Muskoka.

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