Bill to make union spending public shut down in House of Commons

Private member’s bill C-317 would create ‘new class of taxpayer’: Speaker
||Last Updated: 11/14/2011

The private member’s bill seeking greater financial disclosure from Canadian unions has been derailed by a ruling from House of Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer.

Bill C-317 was intended to amend the rules governing labour organizations under Canada’s Income Tax Act, which currently exempts unions, along with charities and municipalities, from paying taxes.

In his Nov. 4 ruling, Scheer said that the bill should have been preceded by a ways and means motion, which is required for tax and spending measures. He said that the bill “creates a new class of taxpayer” that could be “subject to a removal of the alleviation of taxation.”

Unions had perceived the bill as an indication of continued attacks on unions from the Harper government.

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), which represents more than 55,000 Canadian public servants, developed a strategy that used parliamentary procedure to tackle the Bill without taking the government head-on in a broader campaign. Their strategy aided the NDP win the Speaker’s ruling, which stopped the bill before second reading.

“Without PIPSC, this smart, novel approach to fight this Bill would not have seen the light of day,” said PIPSC president Gary Corbett. “I am extremely proud of our role on C-317.”

Among other items, Bill C-317 was seeking unions to submit the following:

  • the status of accounts receivable and loans payable,
  • the sale and or purchase of investments and fixed assets, including a description, cost outline, book value and sale price,
  • the salaries, benefits, bonuses and gifts given to officers, directors, trustees, employees and contractors,
  • the costs related to labour relations activities, political activities and lobbying,
  • the costs of contributions, gifts and grants, and
  • costs relating to conferences and conventions.

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