Sixteen Conservative Senators voted with Liberal Senators to block Bill C-377, which means that the controversial legislation has to go back to the House of Commons. The Senate passed a series of amendments, effectively defeating the major provisions of Bill C-377.
Bill C-377 targeted Canada’s trade union movement, and if implemented would drastically change rules around financial disclosure. For more on the case against Bill C-377, see this recent piece by Toby Sanger.
“As per Parliamentary convention, we expect that the Senate will respect the will of the House of Commons should the bill be returned to the Senate,” PMO spokesperson Andrew MacDougall stated, in response to being rebuffed by a number of the governing party’s own Senators.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) issued the following statement, advocating that the Bill be withdrawn altogether.
“I do want to thank the Senators for taking seriously their responsibility as legislators,” says CLC President Ken Georgetti. “This is a sloppy, poorly drafted piece of legislation and the Senators were not prepared to accept it as is, when it was presented to them. It is regrettable the Senators did not go all the way and defeat a bill that is at best, poor public policy, and political bullying at its worst.”
Georgetti was responding to news that the Senate has voted to amend Bill C-377 and send it back to the House of Commons. The bill would force every labour organization in Canada to file expensive and detailed financial information about individuals and companies, which would then be posted publicly on a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website.
Earlier this month the Senate Banking Committee took an unprecedented step in submitting critical observations about the bill, noting that the vast majority of testimony and submissions raised serious concerns about the legislation — the constitutional validity of the bill, the protection of personal information, the cost to government, and the bill’s vagueness.
Georgetti points out that those appearing before the Senate committee to criticize the bill included five provincial governments, the Canadian Bar Association, the life insurance and mutual fund industries and the federal Privacy Commissioner.
Georgetti adds, “This bill claims to promote financial transparency but it is actually meant to harass unions and their members. Even as amended, the bill singles out unions for discriminatory treatment, invades the privacy of individuals, steps into provincial jurisdiction and is unconstitutional. Conservative Members of Parliament caved into bullying from the Prime Minister’s Office and passed a badly flawed piece of legislation. That was a sad day for the House of Commons.”
The Canadian Labour Congress, the national voice of the labour movement, represents 3.3 million Canadian workers. The CLC brings together Canada’s national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 130 district labour councils.