Posted: Friday, 26 October 2012
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The Canadian Labour Congress is deeply concerned about this private member’s Bill’s many disturbing provisions – so concerned that we believe this legislation should be withdrawn.
I will briefly touch on some of our objections, all of which are detailed in our submission to the Committee.
We strongly believe that Mr. Hiebert’s unnecessary Bill will create more bureaucratic red tape that will be very expensive for the government, pension plans, investment managers, health benefit plans and labour organizations to administer.
It will significantly intrude on the privacy of a large number of our members as well as many other individuals who are not union members and their families.
We also believe it is unconstitutional and offends federal and provincial privacy laws.
Despite our differences, we have successfully worked with the government on a range of issues.
Not once has a government Minister or representative raised concerns about accountability with us.
When Mr. Hiebert introduced this Bill, he told reporters he had not received a single complaint from a union member that he or she could not get financial information from their union.
There is a reason for that lack of complaints. In the six provinces and federally where there is legislation governing the provision of financial information to union members, there were, in 2010-2011 a grand total of 6 complaints filed with labour boards, all of which were resolved.
This represents 6 complaints out of 4.2 million union members in Canada.
The reporting requirements of Mr. Hiebert’s Bill will intrude right into the medicine cabinets of millions of Canadian families.
His Bill flies in the face of long held Conservative principles of less intrusion by the government, budget reduction and less bureaucracy.
It is ironic though that this very government got rid of the long-form census on the basis of intrusion into an individual’s privacy, yet this Bill does exactly that in a much more intrusive manner.
That is why Mr. Chairman, dozens of pension plan and investment fund managers and benefit plan administrators have advised us they have written the government with their opposition to the Bill.
To implement Mr. Hiebert’s Bill, the government will have to invest in costly systems capable of processing tens of thousands of individual reports containing thousands of separate transactions.
Who is promoting this Bill and where is the support coming from? And, why do they want the Bill and the information it provides?
Who is really behind this legislation?
You don’t have to look hard to see that it is Merit Canada, an organization that does not even release the names of its board members and that has four lobbyists on the Hill, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, a non-profit organization, just like us, which issues tax receipts for its membership fees, the National Citizens Coalition which holds no annual general membership meetings and provides no financial statements to its members, LabourWatch and the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation.
These are all the same people, wearing two or three hats, who work to destroy what we have accomplished.
We know these groups and the few MPs promoting this Bill don’t like us and they have a track record to indicate this.
It is important to note that none of these organizations, which enjoy tax free status and which lobby the government on an ongoing basis, are very transparent at all.
Not a single one of them would agree to share the information publicly they want you to gather from us.
In fact Merit Canada was, until recently, in violation of the legislation requiring it to report to the Industry Minister.
There are going to be a lot of unintended victims of this Bill – people who are on disability plans, a person in the same benefit plan as a union member, businesses and commercial enterprises which have contracts with unions, all of whom will have private information posted on a public data base.
This is information employers cannot obtain from plan carriers because of privacy legislation.
In summary, the Bill is seriously flawed legislation that is unnecessary, bureaucratic, discriminatory, and, I might add, is unconstitutional.
I strongly encourage you to review the wide range of organizations opposing this legislation.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate my wish that, if there is a real concern about the deductibility of professional fees and union dues, or tax receipts issued by non-profit organizations, that the government discusses it directly with all sectors of Canadian society that are treated similarly under the Income Tax Act.
Then, working together, it may be possible that we come to a reasonable solution regardless of our views on specific issues.
But, I need to add, with respect, Mr. Chairman and Committee members, how we deploy our financial and staff resources is, frankly, none of your business.
Our members have told us they do not want their bosses to have access to this information in order to use it against them.
Our policies and our budgets are set by our members.
We are democratic, our conventions are open and we are transparent to our members and our decision making is not the business of either the government, our bosses or anti-union organizations.
This private member’s Bill will set bad public policy if it is adopted.
I welcome any questions.