Bill C-377 Stalled in the Senate

Bill C-377, which aims to amend the Income Tax Act (ITA) and create
stringent reporting requirements for labour organizations, was passed by the
House of Commons in December, 2012 and is now the subject of hot debate in the
Senate. So heated is the debate that even some Tory members are uncharacteristically
supportive of the Liberals and the NDP in their efforts to amend or block the

Many see the bill
as an attempt to covertly use the Canada Revenue Agency to attack unions. It

is a hugely intrusive bill that seeks to
force labour unions to publicly disclose much of their internal
information, including salary details. The reporting requirements the bill seeks
to impose would be time-consuming and costly not only for unions but for
tax-payers across the country.
Scrutinizing unions would require
the CRA, by its own estimate, to take on additional staff and require roughly
$2.5 million in operating funds. The CRA would also require an additional
$800,000 in funding per year for this undertaking. 

The bill is wholly lopsided in its effects,
encumbering unions in a sea of bureaucratic paperwork without likewise
troubling employers. As Senator Hugh Segal has pointed out, a proposed
subparagraph to be included in the amendment to the ITA would require unions to
declare monies spent on labour relations activities, “…with no concurrent
disclosure imposed on the management side.”[2]

Why the CRA needs to be involved in the expenses unions
incur for labour relations activities is either left vague by proponents of the
Bill or is couched in antipathy toward mandatory union dues and thinly veiled
right-to-work rhetoric.

Further, there is no like requirement being placed on other groups that
engage in political expression. Only labour relations activities are targeted. According
to NDP MP, Yvon Godin: “…with Bill C-377, the Conservatives are going after unions the same way
the IRS went after the Tea Party in the United States.”
[3] Indeed, the
bill appears designed to damage unions. The Canadian Bar Association has
acknowledged as much, noting that Bill C-377 may infringe the Charter-protected
rights of unions:

The Bill interferes with the internal
administration and operations of a union, which the constitutionally protected
freedom of association precludes, unless the government interference qualifies
as a reasonable limitation upon associational rights. It is unclear from the
Bill what the justification is for these infringements.

The CBA has also raised a red flag regarding the underhandedness of the Bill,
stating that it: “could have a serious impact on the operations of labour
unions, yet these processes are embedded in amendments to the Income Tax
”, concluding that “it is inappropriate for operational restrictions to
be brought forward as amendments to taxation legislation.”[4]

To highlight the absurdity of empowering the CRA to
single out unions in this way, Senator Segal posits a chilling question: “If
CRA is to become the political judge of what expenses are appropriate, what are
the guiding criteria?” He then notes that “the bill is silent on that.”[5]
With the recent IRS scandal dominating the American political landscape, we
must all be wary of the powers of taxation authorities to stifle political
expression.This goes to the heart of a properly functioning democracy. If
passed, this bill will change the democratic face of Canada that we all hold so
dear. And we will all be the poorer for it. 

One of the goals touted by Conservative and other supporters of this bill is
transparency. If this were indeed the goal one would think the Conservatives
would be more transparent in their motives for seeking to amend the ITA.
Surely, that’s the least Canadians have a right to expect from their
government. For now Bill C-377 is stalled in the Senate, and this is exactly
where it belongs.

You may also like

Lufthansa Flights Canceled Due to Strike

Lufthansa Flights Canceled Due to Strike

We Have a lot to Thank Unions For

We Have a lot to Thank Unions For

This Week in the History of the International Labour Movement Wagner Act

This Week in the History of the International Labour Movement Wagner Act
{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Subscribe to our Bulletin now!