BC senators vote in favour of union disclosures

Senator Richard Neufeld

Before adjourning for the summer break this week, the Upper House of Parliament made some legislative news when its 105 members passed a controversial union transparency bill that will require all unions to publicly disclose transactions over $5,000.

Bill C-377 also forces the unions to reveal details of officers and executives who earn more than $100,000 annually, and to provide the information to the Canada Revenue Agency, which will then publicly post it to its website.

The Conservative government used its majority in the Senate to shut off debate on the contentious financial disclosure bill, even though seven provinces — BC not among them — had denounced it as unconstitutional.

They argue the bill is an encroachment on provincial jurisdiction, but the counter argument from supporters, including BC MP Russ Hiebert, who introduced the legislation, is that it merely extends to publicly-funded labour groups, the Harper government’s new standard for public disclosure.

He backs his claim with a 2013 Leger poll that reportedly showed 83 per cent of 1,400 surveyed Canadians are in favour of requiring unions to disclose how they spend union dues.

The three Conservative-appointed Senators in BC — including former Peace River North MLA Richard Neufeld — voted with the majority this week.

It should be noted, however, that in previously voiced concerns, Senator Neufeld was quoted as saying he anticipates the bill could be challenged in court, or quite possibly repealed if this falls federal election results in a Tory defeat.

Attempts to get him to comment on that failed, but the Vancouver Sun did get some comments from Liberal-appointed BC Senator Larry Campbell.

He called this a stupid bill, and accused Prime Minister Harper of throwing some “red meat” to his hard core right-wing members after some early pre-election polls showed the Conservatives behind the New Democrats.

Mr. Campbell has also reportedly argued, “There’s nothing democratic about what’s going on here…it’s like watching the Roman Empire collapse.”