Working people in Canada received a welcome holiday gift on Dec. 21 courtesy of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s newly-formed Liberal government.
Diane Lebouthillier, the minister of national revenue, announced a waiver of the onerous reporting requirements for labor organizations under Bill C-377, the anti-union legislation stridently opposed by labor during fall’s national election.
“We commend the new government for taking these important steps so quickly,” said First District Vice President Bill Daniels, “but our main priority is still for them to follow through on their commitment to fully repeal this unfair law as soon as possible.”
Bill C-377 was a four-year fight for Canadian trade unions from the time Conservative MP Russ Hiebert first proposed it until it was forced through the Senate last June. The bill, which required strict financial reporting to the federal government of everything from salaries to office supply purchases, was slated to take effect on Dec. 30.
The ideologically-driven legislation, which threatened to bury Canada’s unions in bureaucratic red tape, was one of the main motivations behind a particularly active campaign from labor in the lead-up to October’s national elections.
Thanks in part to the boost from labor, Oct. 19 saw a historic wave election sweep Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s party from power amid massive gains for Trudeau’s Liberals. In the end, the Liberal party gained 184 seats in the House of Commons, catapulting it into the majority with more than five times its membership in the last parliament.
“We told our members early on that there were two ways to overturn C-377,” said First District Political Action/Media Strategist Matt Wayland. “We could do it the expensive way and fight the bill in the courts, or we could do it the quicker, easier way and work hard during the election to get rid of the Harper government.”
IBEW leaders and members across the First District activated their national grassroots political program designed to educate members on the issues and to get them to the polls, specifically in targeted ridings.
The Let’s Build Canada coalition, organized by the IBEW and other building trades unions, pushed the issues of infrastructure investment and job creation for young workers as part of its winning strategy.
Now that Harper’s nine-year tenure as prime minister has come to an end, there has been a definite change of tone in Ottawa, said Wayland.
“The door is open now,” he said. “The new government is willing to listen to us, and while we don’t expect they’ll do everything we want, it’s a much healthier relationship than it was a year ago.”
In announcing the year-long grace period on C-377 reporting, Lebouthillier reiterated the new government’s commitment to provide a legislative fix in the coming months.
In a statement, she wrote, “Waiving Bill C-377 reporting requirements delivers on our government’s commitment to restore a fair and balanced approach to organized labor, freeing them from additional administrative tasks, and providing confidence in the future while the necessary steps are taken to repeal the bill.”
Another important piece of anti-union legislation, Bill C-525, is also likely to see repeal under the new government thanks to a similar campaign promise. That law made it harder for workers covered by the federal labor code to form a union and made it easier to decertify one.
For leaders at the IBEW, Wayland said, it’s, “So far, so good …. The right things are being done.”
Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user Tuchodi.