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January 2015

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Tories Resurrect Anti-Labour Bill

Federal anti-union legislation that all but died in 2013 is back — and it threatens to drown the Canadian labour movement in a tide of red tape.

Bill C-377 would force unions to publicly disclose all financial transactions over $5,000, along with staff and elected leaders' salaries.

"Bill C-377 is an anti-union bill," said Senate opposition leader James Cowan during debate over the legislation. "It is designed to bury labour unions in so much paperwork that they will not be able to represent their workers fully and capably as they do now."

Critics say that C-377 unfairly singles out unions, while exempting other dues-paying membership organizations, including corporate lobbying groups like the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses and Merit Canada, the country's largest open-shop contractors association.

Introduced by Tory MP Russ Hiebert in 2012, it was passed by the House of Commons and sent to the Senate for approval. There, a bloc of Conservatives voted with Liberal members for a series of amendments that in the words of Toronto Star reporter Nathalie Madore, "all but gutted the bill."

But after Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament in 2013, the bill was automatically re-sent to the House and Senate in its original form.

This time, supporters are trying to fast-track C-377 by limiting debate in the Senate, avoiding possible amendments that could weaken the legislation.

The exceptional effort Tories have put into passing the bill is largely due to aggressive lobbying by Merit Canada, whose main lobbyist, Terrance Oakey, is a longtime Conservative Party political operative.

Government watchdog group Canadians for Responsible Advocacy found that Oakey held 117 meetings with office holders about Bill C-377, including more than a dozen meetings with staffers from Harper's office.

Oakey has a long history with Harper, working as a researcher for the then leader of the opposition in 2004 and 2005.

His relationship with the government is so close that Oakey was invited to join cabinet ministers on an all-expenses-paid trade mission to Germany last year.

In contrast, representatives from the Canadian Labour Congress met with lawmakers less than 80 times since Bill C-377 was introduced, mainly with opposition New Democratic and Liberal MPs.

"This guy (Oakey) had open access to the prime minister's office, but for the labour movement, the office is a closed door," CLC official Danny Mallett told the Toronto Star.

First District Vice President Bill Daniels says the Tories' rush to pass the legislation is due in part to labour's growing grassroots political strength, particularly in Ontario, where the Working Families Coalition — a broad based political action group supported by provincial unions — help beat back Tim Hudak's Progressive Conservatives in last year's election.

Hudak had made passing legislation similar to right-to-work laws in the United States one of his top priorities.

Bill C-377 was sent to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs late last year, where its constitutionality will be debated.

"This is an unconstitutional bill to begin with and it does not comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms," Conservative Sen. Diane Bellemare told Blacklock's Reporter. The vast majority of the 44 witnesses who testified on the bill last year agreed, saying it was a violation of privacy and the freedom of association.

Harper's government has passed multiple bills that were later thrown out by the Supreme Court for being unconstitutional, and Matt Wayland, First District political action/media strategist, says he would rather see C-377 ruled unconstitutional now before it becomes actual law.

The labour movement is also asking senators to reject a second anti-worker bill, C-525. The bill would amend the federal labour code — which covers workers in such industries as railroad and telecommunications — by eliminating majority "card-check" recognition, making it much harder for workers to form a union.

Under card-check, an employer automatically recognizes a union when a majority of employees in a workplace sign union cards.

Go to for more information on how to get involved and to contact your MP.


Ottawa Tories are resurrecting anti-labour Bill C-377, which singles out unions for onerous reporting requirements.

Flickr photo: Suresh_|=k