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Bill C-377 can be just the start -- let's shine a light on some corners that are really in the dark!

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Russ Hiebert

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Well, you can't fight a call for transparency, so why bother? I say, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em!

The so-called Conservative Party of Stephen Harper quietly whipped its troops in the privacy of their caucus rooms and managed to squeeze Bill C-377 -- social-conservative B.C. MP Russ Hiebert's amateurish and unconstitutional piece of anti-union mischief -- through the House of Commons last night.

They'll say that they didn't whip it -- that is to say, impose party discipline to enforce the vote the Prime Minister's inner circle wanted -- but they'll be lying, notwithstanding a few conveniently symbolic Tory holdouts.

As Canadians are coming to understand, these Harper Conservatives lie about everything -- their motives, their agenda, their plans to sell the country out to foreign governments, the price of a stealthy jet bombers they want us to buy for them, not to mention what they plan to use them for, which

So why not lie about their reasons for Bill C-377 too, which, no doubt, will soon slide through the Senate, nowadays packed with Tory porkchoppers, like corn through a goose.

Opposition leader Thomas Mulciar is right, of course, that this legislative rubbish is so badly flawed it's unlikely to survive an encounter with an independent court. But in the mean time it'll provide the Harperites with an opportunity to lie some more about Mulcair's and the NDP's relationship with organized labour, so I suppose despite its flaws the ruckus it stirs up may prove fleetingly valuable to Reform Party dead-enders like the prime minister of Calgary.

But as the Toronto Star's Thomas Walkom wisely pointed out last night, it's not really the political right that’s killing unions -- it's unions themselves when they make themselves irrelevant to ordinary working people by paying attention only their own members.

Ironically, while most unions don't do enough to represent working people beyond their own membership, what little they do to fight for the powerless in society is why authoritarian neoconservatives like Harper have such a hate on for labour and other groups that speak out for traditional Canadian values.

So one worthwhile response to the effort by the Conservatives to smother unions in red tape is to fight harder for real progressive causes, not to mention never again signing a lousy two-tier contract that leaves young workers with the short end of the stick to preserve the past victories of older workers. No, an injury to one remains an injury to all, people!

No doubt many unions will want to challenge this unconstitutional law in the courts, and, since they stand a good chance of success, one can hardly blame them.

Still, I think we should also be working hard now to extend the range of transparency in society to where it will actually do some good, casting a bright light into the dingier corners of the corporate world, including its network of Astroturf agencies and far-right think tanks.

"An overwhelming number of Canadians believe it should be mandatory for unions to publicly disclose detailed financial information on a regular basis," a Conservative MP said in the Commons debate. It is said here that exactly the same thing can be said of Canadians' attitudes about privately held corporations, think tanks, lobbyists and groups that serve the same purpose as labour unions only for more powerful and better connected individuals.

And someone -- perhaps a labour union -- should finance a public opinion poll, which could observe the same high standards as the push poll conducted by Hiebert's friends -- to gauge how the public feels about the extension of these standards of transparency throughout society. I can guarantee you their attitudes will be much the same when it comes to businesses, employer councils, chambers of commerce and their ilk.

The Alberta Medical Association, which is clearly operating as a labour organization under the loosey-goosey terms of this act, would be an excellent place to start. After that, the Law Society. And then the think tanks, the professional lobbying firms, the charities that stake out political positions and give donations, the privately held businesses that nevertheless do business with any level of government. Hockey boss Daryl Katz, c'mon down!

Why not? As Hiebert and the Conservatives have told us repeatedly, Canadians just love transparency.

Of course the Conservatives were lying about the details. But they just should have been more careful about what they wished for, because transparency is coming -- and not just to unions.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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