The Fraser Institute

The Fraser Institute

October 11, 2005 07:00 ET

The Fraser Institute Media Release-Labour Relations Boards in Canada and the US Lack Transparency: Boards in Alberta, Manitoba, and British Columbia Perform Best

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(CCNMatthews - Oct. 11, 2005) - Labour relations boards across Canada and the United States have significant room to improve their transparency and accountability by increasing the voluntary and timely release of information to the public, according to The Transparency of Labour Relations Boards in Canada and the United States, released today by The Fraser Institute.

This new study is the first known attempt to measure the transparency of labour relations boards. The study includes the 10 provincial labour relations boards, the Canadian Industrial Relations Board, and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in the United States.

"Labour relations boards in Canada and the United States exert a great deal of power in determining whether or not employees are collectively represented (unionized) and what the subsequent relations between employers and unions will be like. It is critical that these boards, like all public entities operate in an open and transparent manner," said Jason Clemens, co-author and the Institute's director of fiscal studies.

Index of Labour Relations Board Transparency

The study includes an overall measure of transparency, referred to as the Index of Labour Relations Board Transparency, which is composed of three indicators (see Table 1 on CCNMatthews' website: http://www.ccnmatthews.com/docs/LRB1.pdf). The principal indicator assesses the level of voluntary disclosure of information from two sources of information-the annual report and the website. The second indicator examines responsiveness to requests for information by formal letters. The third indicator evaluates the timeliness (year) of information available.

Overall, the results indicate that all 12 jurisdictions have room for improvement. Alberta and Manitoba are the most transparent, each scoring 8.7 out of a possible 10.0. British Columbia followed closely with a score of 8.4.

There is a relatively large gap between British Columbia (3rd place) and New Brunswick and the United States, both of which scored 6.7 out of 10.0 and tied for 4th place overall.

Four of the twelve labour relations boards failed to receive scores above 5.0 (out of 10.0): Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. In addition, Saskatchewan and the Canadian Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) both received scores only slightly above 5.0.

Equally worrying is that the labour relations boards of Canada's two most populous provinces, Quebec (ranked 9th) and Ontario (ranked 10th), performed poorly.

Components of the Index

The first measure examined 25 pieces of information, including financial statements, governance information, and data relating to specific aspects of the labour relations laws in each jurisdiction, to determine what percentage were disclosed in the annual report and/or through the website. British Columbia and Ontario disclosed the greatest amount of information through their websites and annual reports; of the 25 indicators examined both voluntarily reported 72 percent. Alberta and Manitoba followed closely with 68 percent disclosure.

Five jurisdictions failed to disclose more than 50 percent of the information (Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and the Canadian Industrial Relations Board).

The second measure of transparency was the responsiveness of the boards to specific information requests sent through formal letters of inquiry. The CIRB garnered the highest response rate to letters of inquiry (94 percent). New Brunswick, Alberta and Manitoba also fared well in their responsiveness to information requests.

Alarmingly, there were five jurisdictions that received 0 percent for their responsiveness (NF, SK, QC, ON, and PEI). In fact, three jurisdictions, NF, SK, and ON failed to even respond to the letters.

The final indicator measures the timeliness of information made public. Ten of the twelve jurisdictions maintained up-to-date information on their websites and in their annual reports. Two jurisdictions, Ontario and PEI lagged in releasing current information in a timely manner.

"The lack of transparency exhibited by the majority of labour relations boards in Canada and the United States should be a cause for concern for anyone worried about public accountability. The aim of this research is to document and encourage greater transparency and openness," concluded Clemens.

Established in 1974, The Fraser Institute is an independent public policy organization with offices in Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto. The paper and news release are posted at www.fraserinstitute.ca.

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