The Duel – 24hrs, Vancouver Edition

Heads up for all my readers to pick up a copy  of 24hrs Vancouver edition tomorrow, where I go head to head with Kathryn Marshall on  this week’s topic:

Is Bill C-377 good for Canada’s union members?

My column:

http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2012/12/16/conservatives-passed-new-disclosure-requirements-to-hamper-canadas-unions

Kathryn’s column:

http://vancouver.24hrs.ca/2012/12/16/new-rules-are-about-making-unions-more-accountable-for-their-tax-benefits

Who wins the battle this week? You be the judge : submit your comments below the article or email in 150 word or less at van24feedback@sunmedia.ca

Conservatives passed new disclosure requirements to hamper Canada’s unions

Laila Yuile, Guest Columnist

Sunday, December 16, 2012

This week’s topic: Is Bill C-377 good for Canada’s union members?

Last week, those benevolent Conservative members of Parliament bestowed an early Christmas gift on organized labour in this country — or so they would like you to believe.

Bill C-377, a private member’s bill drafted by Tory backbencher Russ Hiebert, was passed in the House of Commons and with it the requirement that unions publicly disclose how they spend their members’ dues. Detailed reports will now have to be submitted to Revenue Canada yearly — a costly venture for taxpayers and unions alike. The information will subsequently be posted online and available to the general public.

Labour Minister Lisa Raitt declared it was all out of concern for those Canadian union workers who — thanks to those altruistic Tories — will now have the information they need to make informed decisions before casting ballots in union elections. Seriously, I think I saw a tear in her eye.

Now let’s talk a little reality.

I support financial transparency in member-based organizations, in particular those that collect fees. Members should know where money is going and how it is being spent. However, I know from being in a family where nearly everyone is a unionized forestry worker, that the vast majority of unions already make their financial statements available to their members. There are even a number of provincial labour codes to support this across Canada.

Because of this, it seems to me that the Conservative government is trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. The Tories didn’t target any other associations or organizations that collect dues, such as medical associations or law societies. They only targeted unions. This bill is about two things — hampering organized labour in this country and hindering the New Democratic Party, which has always been backed by union support.

Unions are closed organizations, and therefore financial transparency should be a concern limited to members — publicly posting financial information does nothing to serve the membership.

It does however, give  more than a few strategic advantages to corporations during union contract negotiations;to corporations who don’t want their employees to unionize, and to the Conservatives who will be able to see where and how the unions who support the NDP, are spending their money.

Indeed, if the Conservatives are so concerned about Canadians needing the right information to make the right decisions when casting election ballots, they might want to try legislating some financial transparency of their own.

Read Kathryn Marshall’s column.


Laila Yuile is an independent writer, blogger and political commentator.

This entry was posted in BC Liberals, BC NDP, BC Politics, Federal politics, Laila Yuile and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to The Duel – 24hrs, Vancouver Edition

  1. Hands down, without any doubt, Laila Yuile is the winner!!!!! Transparency, indeed! If only the Cons and Lieberals understood that word, PLEASE! Thier track record speaks for itself. The Cons want transparency with the Unions. From day one, they have done anything and everything they could to discredit due process, using legislation for Union Busting. Who are they kidding! Must be getting scared that, indeed, the NDP, will take the next elections! They always proclaim that Labour supports Unions, or vise virsa, like it’s a dirty deal! What a joke! We all know their monies come from Conglomerates. They have been bought and paid for, don’t listen to their polished BS, watch what they do, it will tell you everything you want to know about these two Parties, and who supports them. So, Labour supports the NDP. So what you’re saying is, the NDP is the Party that will listen to the 99%? Sounds good to me! ROLL OUT THE ORANGE!

  2. nonconfidencevote says:

    Sorry Laila but I have to side with Kathryn on this one.
    Lets face it. Unions ARE big business. The money they rake in from their members and shovel out should be available for all the members to see.
    These contributions to the union are compulsary.
    If you’re in the union you must pay dues, medical, and pension payments.
    Union expenditures should be just as transparent as any large organization.
    Perhaps the elected members are a tad worried that their members might not be too pleased to see their hard earned money supporting dubious “causes” that the rank and file may not even know about or WANT to support.
    I personally know of 3 seperate people in 3 different unions that have been branded “troublemakers” because they have had the “audacity” to stand up in union meetings and ask: a) “Why havent I recieved a pension statement in over a year?”
    b)” How much money are we donating to the NDP this year?”
    c)” How much did it cost to send the council to Las Vegas last fall?”
    All of these people were/are blacklisted by the rank and file and their lives are miserable.

    Public accountability? If they have nothing to hide then they have nothing to worry about.
    Normal accounting practices that eveyone else lives by…. they should join the 21st century.

    • Laila says:

      Kathryn compares unions to charities…. which is rather like compariing apples to tuna. Two completely different entities.

      Charities rely on public donations and therefore should indeed be publically transparent. As Norman Farrell has demonstrated with CRA documentation,charities such as The Orphans fund that claim to spend little to nothing on administration to the public, are actually spending an incredible amount on administration and overhead, which is deceptive to the donors sending in their hard earned cash.

      Unions, however, are not public entities, rather more like a private corporation for reporting purposes. As I said I do agree they should be accountable and transparent,and that should be something the mmebership should push forth prior to elections. I too know union members not happy with where their dues are being used, and I do think that the locals who aren’t able to access that info for whatever reason need to push for that with their union brothers and sisters. But again, look at the motive behind this legislation.

      The government can’t cherry pick which closed membership based organization to target and this is the case. The intended target is unions, not doctors, lawyers or any other professional association that requires dues to be paid, similar to unions. If transparency is really their concern for Canadians, as Lisa Raitt proudly claimed was her concern, they would do this across the board.

      The funny thing is, that my understanding of this bill as written, is that it could be used and turned around against the Conservatives if it was applied to all associations…. which might not want the public to hear about large donations going to Tory ridings….

      I stand with this column – it’s a bit rich for the Conservative government whose own transparency with spending public dollars just doesnt exist in many cases…. to be legislating the quality they lack onto private member organizations.

      • nonconfidencevote says:

        I agree with you that the Conservatives dont do anything without some sort of agenda which will benefit them.
        And I dont kid myself that they are doing this just for “the workin’ man”.
        I just think that if you have nothing to hide. Whats the big deal?
        And these are large organizations that are essentially run like any other big business.
        Except.
        If I am a shareholder in a publically owned company and that company refuses to open its books….I can sell my shares and wash my hands of them.
        Unionized workers that must pay into the UNION that they MUST join in order that they keep their job have compulsary union dues, pension plans,etc.
        Unless they are willing to quit( A fairly drastic action to take) what other recourse do they have to question financial expenditures without being singled out for retribution( and I assure you, retribution DOES happen)?

        Approved accounting procedures, open, honest bookeeping to ensure everything is on the up and up.
        Whats wrong with that? I’m amazed they are allowed to get away with unexplained expenses in this day and age.
        Perhaps the leader’s of these union organizations are griping because they realize the nondisclosure “gravy train” is over………

        Shining a light into the dark recesses of any organization that controls other peoples money is a good thing. keeps everyone honest.

        • Laila says:

          Great points, and while we agree on transparency and accountability – we will have to disagree on the method to achieve that. If they are going to do it to the unions, then they better do it to every organization accepting dues and member fees – Doctors, lawyers, and other professional associations as well…. which will shoot the Cons right in the foot.

  3. bcwaterboy says:

    Accountability of unions aside, I don’t believe the government is really concerned about transparency more than they are about the power that unions wield over wages. While true, unions are themselves a business, it’s who they represent that we should keep in perspective. Unions represent the people who are a barrier to absolute power and that is what is at the core of this legislation. Besides, I don’t believe a word coming from the know-nothing mouthpiece for ethical oil.

  4. bcwaterboy says:

    I agree with your main point Laila that if transparency were the motive behind the legislation, it would apply to all associations similar to unions. I belong to two professional associations that I pay annual dues to, which at the end of the year would be equal to union dues. Should these organizations also be transparent, absolutely if that’s the goal. The main difference is that these organizations have nothing to do with wages or benefits. That I think is the real motive: the power of a union to negotiate those troublesome good wages and benefits.

      • nonconfidencevote says:

        Ironically, the majority of unionized workers in Canada are now Federal, Provincial and Municipal employees.
        Gone are the days of “Big Union” in the private sector.
        So we essentially have the govt fighting (mostly) unionized govt employees.
        I dont see the issue as wages as much as the elephant in the room ( defined benefit pensions)
        Unionized Govt. employees with unsustainable, unaffordable defined benefit pension(pensions that are topped up by non union taxpayers that have no pensions)…..
        Do I want to see where any “extra” union money is being spent?
        You bet I do.
        This issue isnt going away. As the massive Boomer generation slides into retirement, the “haves”( pensioned) will be outnumbered by the “have nots” (unpensioned).
        Its going to be ugly.

        Conservative agenda. “Divide and Conquer”?

        • Laila says:

          Interesting point and true, for sure – this government has a history of anti-union rhetoric behind it, and you are right this is going to get nasty Not only between government and union, but the public versus unions as well.

          That does indeed, divide and conquer. This country is far more conservative than most people anticipate, which is supported by the results in recent federal byelections. I dont mean that people literally support the Cons, but the vast majority of people are moderate politically. They dont want the far Right, nor do they want the far Left.

          In my opinion, most people stick right around the middle, and all parties would do well to see that, rather than forward their own agendas.

  5. Gary says:

    I find it interesting that ‘Ol Russ is the shill that presents this bill. ‘Ol Russ who flew his family back and forth to Ottawa on the public dime, until he was found out by the electorate. ‘Ol Russ who finds it easy to be above the fray with a Bible in his hand. ‘Ol Russ, who was indignant that anybody would question his expenses.

    Kathryn’s arguement is niave and weak. As you mentioned, like comparing ‘apples to tunas’. Let’s take ‘Ol Russ’s bill and circumvent his donators, where every penny of his and his fellow Conservatives contributor’s money’s are spent. Also let’s delve into those contributors and see where else they are contributing monies. Let’s take ‘Ol Russ’s bill and investigate the deals that are signed between his Holy Government and Foreign Nationals. Let’s take ‘Ol Russ’s bill and delve into CC’s deals with LNG’s. Let’s take ‘Ol Russ’s bill and delve into Kieth Sashaw’s monies, and see who motivatied him to write such drival in the same issue as your Duel, as to bringing in 1,000’s more so-called skilled workers from other nations. Thus, also contributing to lowering wages, and working conditions, and Union Busting.

    The Conservatives are interested in one thing. Get the public under control, so as not to be questioned. The Conservatives have reversed the foundation of Canadian Government. They believe we work for them not the otherway around and it’s becoming more and more prevelant in their bills, their actions, their policies and elected officials like ‘Ol Russ are in fear to stand up to them as that compares to the death penalty for their Conservative career’s.

  6. Peter says:

    I noticed you mentioned Russ Hiebert in your column. It’s interesting to note that Hiebert spent around $500,000.00 in expenses with no accountability last year. Oh the hypocracy of the Harperites. He’s one neo-con that has to go!
    I always find it interesting that people earning $150,000.00 per year complain about people earning $40,000.00 or less. Russ, you and all of the MP’s are grossly overpaid for what you do, and for God’s sake, buddy, you clowns have racked up 600 BILLION in debt. So much for fiscal conservatism. Sorry Katherine.

  7. Laila says:

    Oh, he did try to account for that – he was flying his entire family back and forth and back and forth and feeding them all on the public dime. He has four children….http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/members-of-russ-hieberts-riding-association-resign-after-expense-controversy/article567338/

    I would love to see these MP’s and MLA’s account for their spending down to the last dime. I will likely be in my grave before that ever happens..lol..

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