Canadian Labour Congress

Canadian Labour Congress

May 31, 2013 10:12 ET

Legal Experts Say Bill C-377 Is Unconstitutional

Bill promoted by well-connected Conservative insiders

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - May 31, 2013) - The Conservative government and its anti-union allies cannot find a single constitutional expert who will agree that Bill C-377 is constitutional, says Ken Georgetti, President of the Canadian Labour Congress.

"This bill singles out unions and their members for discriminatory treatment and it interferes with their right to freedom of association," says Georgetti. "Every credible expert to appear before parliamentary committees has said so. This is a bird that won't fly."

Bill C-377 would force every labour organization in Canada to file detailed financial information to be posted publicly on a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website. The government claims that this should be done in the name of transparency because union members can deduct their dues from income tax. However, doctors, lawyers, accountants and others can deduct their professional association fees from their income tax as well, but Bill C-377 would apply to none of those groups.

In 2012, the Canadian Bar Association told the House of Commons Finance Committee that Bill C-377 should be withdrawn because it would invade the personal privacy of individual Canadians and is likely unconstitutional.

In Senate hearings over the last two weeks, Professor Bruce Ryder of the Osgoode Hall Law School faculty called the proposed legislation a "Trojan Horse" that will use the Income Tax Act to single out and regulate unions. He predicted that the bill, if passed, will eventually be declared unconstitutional.

Georgetti says, "This bill is being used by the Conservatives to bully union members and to force us to provide detailed information that employer groups will then be able to use against us."

Georgetti points to the lobbying effort being mounted on Bill C-377 by Merit Canada, an employer group whose aim is to get rid of unions in the construction industry. Terrance Oakey, Merit Canada's president, is a former Conservative staffer. He has met with senior government officials in the Prime Minister's Office on 13 occasions since 2012 on C-377 including meetings with with Nigel Wright, who was the prime minister's chief of staff until he resigned recently due to his involvement in the expense scandal surrounding Senator Mike Duffy.

Georgetti says, "Bill C-377 is not about transparency. It's an attempt by the Conservative government and well connected insiders to bully and discriminate against the hard working men and women who belong to labour unions in Canada."

Canada's Privacy Commissioner testified this week she continues to have concerns about the personal privacy violations contained in the bill.

The Senate banking committee hearings into Bill C-377 will continue into June.

The Canadian Labour Congress, the national voice of the labour movement, represents 3.3 million Canadian workers. The CLC brings together Canada's national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 130 district labour councils. Web site: Follow us on Twitter @CanadianLabour

Contact Information

  • Dennis Gruending
    CLC Communications
    Cell-text: 613-878-6040

    Jeff Atkinson
    CLC communications
    Cell-text: 613-863-1413