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Union transparency delayed by Senate spat

Bill C-377 – the Private Member’s Bill that aims to bring transparency to the taxpayer-supported finances of organized labour – got caught in the crossfire in the Canadian Senate.

Though the Bill was passed by the Senate, it was heavily amended so that the requirements to disclose salaries and expenditures would apply to a very small number of unions. Our intelligence out of Ottawa is that the amendments were foisted on the bill not because of the bill itself, but because of totally unrelated political disputes taking place.

It’s just a road bump – because there are a number of next steps possible (depending on exactly what happens with the Senate over the next few weeks). Every indication is that the Bill will be back, and in a way that lives up to the goals in the original Bill that was passed by the elected members of the House of Commons. And Merit Canada assures us they will be working hard to make the case that the time for transparency has come.

The essence of Bill C-377 is that because Canadian law gives labour organizations special privileges like tax-exempt status and the ability of members to deduct their dues from their income taxes that they need to provide a measure of disclosure to the taxpayers footing the bill for these special statuses.

Despite the heavily vocal opposition from Canada’s well-funded labour leaders, the vast majority of Canadians support disclosure. A Nanos Research poll in September 2011 indicated that 83% of Canadians – and 86% of union members – agree with mandatory public financial disclosure unions.

We’ll keep you up to date when the issue heats up again in the fall.

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