Linda Jeffrey (Minister of Labour) Letter to the Senate Regarding Bill 377
Honourable Members of the Senate of Canada
Dear Members of the Senate,
I am writing regarding Bill C-377, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (requirements for labour organizations), which passed third reading in the House of Commons on December 12, 2012 and has been referred to you for further consideration.
The Government of Ontario wishes to convey to you and the Government of Canada our serious concerns regarding the inexplicably intrusive nature of Bill C-377’s financial disclosure obligations. These requirements would impose an onerous administrative burden on both organized labour and on Government to collect and file these returns, potentially compromise the privacy of individuals, and could represent an unwarranted interference with the collective bargaining process in Canada.
In our government’s view, the internal administration of a union, including how dues are spent, is a matter between the union and its members. Bill C-377 seems unnecessarily provocative and without a sound public policy rationale to justify its passage.
Ontario’s Labour Relations Act, 1995 (LRA) has long-standing financial accountability provisions for organized labour to their members. Unions are required to provide a copy of an audited annual financial statement, to a requesting member. If the union does not provide the statement or the member believes the statement is inadequate, the member has recourse and is able to file a complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board, which already has the powers necessary to remedy any conflicts.
Our research shows only a handful of complaints have been filed with the Board over the last few years. This suggests that Ontario’s existing rules in this area currently meet the needs of organized labour members. It also suggests that unions are responsive to their members needs as they are the individuals who fund and elect their leadership through democratic means.
A former Conservative government of Ontario previously attempted a similar experiment – for a number of years, organized labour was required to disclose to the Minister of Labour the salaries and benefits of all employees, officers and directors who earned in excess of $100,000 a year. The Minister was given the discretion to publish filings, and several reports were made public. These disclosure requirements failed to promote productive labour relations nor did they provide any value added accountability to union members not otherwise available through the OLRB processes. At the same time these new requirements used up scarce government resources and were a poor use of taxpayers’ dollars. These disclosure requirements were repealed in 2005.
As passed in third reading, Bill C-377 we believe lacks an appropriate balance between legitimate public policy goals and respect for personal information which is normally considered sensitive. The public will legitimately ask ‘what is the problem this Bill is intending to address?’ This Bill’s potential impact on privacy concerns a great many Canadian citizens, organized labour, corporations, not-for-profits and pension funds.
Over the past eight years our government has worked hard to restore fairness, balance, dignity and productivity to labour relations in Ontario, while keeping our province competitive. I am proud to report that nearly 98 percent of labour contracts in Ontario are settled without disruption. This Bill, as passed in third reading, has the potential to drastically derail collective bargaining in Ontario. In these tough economic times we need governments, organized labour, and management to work together, and this Bill as passed through the House needlessly intervenes in that process.
I believe the purpose of this Bill substantively interferes with and impedes the internal administration and operations of unions and is not grounded on defensible labour relations practice or policy. Given the concerns I have outlined I recommend that this bill not be passed into law.
Minister of Labour
cc: Minister Raitt
cc: Minister Flaherty
cc: All Prov. Ministers of Labour
cc: All Prov. Ministers of Finance