Bill C377 waived before it could impact union bodies in Canada

By: Meera Gill (Our Global Village)

IMG_3523 copyBILL C 377 will NOT go in effect on December 31, 2015; however, one MUST look into the history of this bill to understand how our elected members write the fate of general public. Majority government can make important decisions and implement them in a hurry. However, lack of good number of opposition also leaves an open door for them to make huge mistakes.

Today, the federal government took its first step towards repealing this controversial law that would have required labour organizations and labour trusts to track their activities for the next fiscal years.

The Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Revenue, today used her authority, under subsection 220(2.1) of the Income Tax Act and announced that she has waived reporting requirements arising from Bill C 377. She said that, “Waiving Bill C-377 reporting requirements delivers on our government’s commitment to restore a fair and balanced approach to organized labour, freeing them from additional administrative tasks, and providing confidence in the future while the necessary steps are taken to repeal the Bill.”

It is being hoped that the government will repeal this bill by mid 2016. However, until such time that this bill is repealed, this waiver from the minister has ensured that unions do not have to hold themselves to the expectations of tracking their details to submit it to CRA starting Dec 31, 2015, the day this bill was going to go in effect.

Both the NDP and Liberal part had promised during the elections campaigns that they would repeal this legislation. This legislation was going to expect a disclosure of all expenses of $5000 and more along with salaries over $100,000 to CRA. CRA was then expected to post these details on its website for public information.

Imposing additional auditing burdens to the unions, to the ones that they already incur, this bill would have left less money in the union funds. Beside the unions, it would have left a huge bill in the hands of the tax payers too as it was estimated to cost minimum of $8 million to get this project off the ground by CRA along with the ongoing yearly cost (estimated $2 million) to run this program there after.

It would be beneficial to know that the section 149 of the Income Tax Act gives tax exemption to many associations such as professional bodies, unions, charities, govt. bodies etc. However, previous Conservative government was perceived acting with the intention of tightening the grip on unions only, as it left all other bodies out of the coverage of C377.

This exclusion raised the question in many minds about the true intention of Conservative government asking for accountability and transparency for the fair reasons. Liberals said that they would have considered it to be brought in good faith if professional bodies, which actually bring in much bigger revenue with the membership due than labour unions, would have also been covered in this bill.

NDP said that the demanded disclosure from the unions, would completely take away their ability to negotiate. Public knowledge of books and knowledge of how long a union could sustain any kind of strike, will benefit the employer and harshly damage the ability of fair bargaining process as it will unfairly advantage the employer.

It was also brought to the attention of the parliament that any union member can ask for the financial details of his/her union at anytime and the process in each union is very much open, fair, democratic and accountable. There are already provisions under other legislation to ensure transparency and accountability and thus it was propagated by both NDP and Liberals that there was no need to bring this additional legislation only against unions.

No one will ever now if Conservative government actually thought that the huge budgets of unions actually need transparency for the right reasons or they simply wanted to stop unions to fund Liberal and NDP parties.

Beside attempting to understand the politics behind this bill, one must realize that the members we elect have huge power to impact our day-to-day lives, our liberties, accountabilities towards the society as well as future of our country. Lets elect them carefully and then hold them accountable.

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