Union transparency bill passes, heads to the Senate

It was a good day for the Conservatives. PM Harper escorts recently elected MP Joan Crockatt in the House of Commons on the same day the transparency bill headed to Senate, Dec 12, 2012.

Credits: REUTERS/Chris Wattie

OTTAWA - Union members are closer to uncovering how their dues are spent after legislation passed Wednesday night that would force labour bosses to disclose their salaries and bonuses and how much is steered to political activities.

Tory MP Russ Hiebert's private member's bill heads to the Senate after the Conservative majority in the House defeated NDP and Liberal opposition to C-377. Five Conservatives voted against the government. The bill passed 147-135 and then MPs headed home for the holidays.

The legislation to amend the Income Tax Act is creating headaches for union leaders, but less so for the rank and file - many who oppose how some of their tax-deductible dues are used.

Some members of the federal government's most militant union - Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) - griped over the summer about their dues being used to fly planes pulling banners over Parliament Hill that said: Harper Hates Us.

Union brass with the support of the NDP has accused the Conservatives of using Republican-style tactics to destroy collective bargaining and workers' rights.

They say the bill infringes on provincial jurisdictions, is unconstitutional and will cost millions of dollars to implement at the Canada Revenue Agency.

"It will be thrown down by the courts. I have no doubt about that. And it's just red meat for the Reform party base. It's pure demagoguery," said NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair.

"It's inapplicable. It will never work. It's going to be a bureaucratic nightmare and this from a government that says it's against red tape."

They also fear the Conservatives will follow C-377 with right-to-work legislation, which would allow workers to opt out of paying dues and union membership - similar to what's happening in the United States.

Bill C-377 is similar to a law unions opposed in the United States that has helped to lead to a stream of union officials being carted off to prison after millions of dollars in union dues disappeared.

Charges ranged from embezzlement to using dues to pay for prostitutes, weddings, vacations, golf tournaments, NFL tickets and other things.

Conservative MP Maxine Bernier says the bill is all about transparency and the right for union members to see where their dues go.

"They want to know what's happening with their money," said the minister of state for small business and tourism.

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