On November 4, 2011, a Private Member’s bill that would have forced unions to publicly disclose more financial information was killed by House of Common Speaker Andrew Scheer on a procedural point of order. The Speaker ruled that Bill C-317 was, in effect, a tax measure because it had the potential to increase taxes on unions should they lose their existing tax-exempt status. Any increase in taxation must be preceded by a ways and means motion which can only be introduced by a government Minister. In this case, the bill was introduced by a Conservative backbencher.
The aim of Bill C-317 was to force unions to make more detailed financial disclosures to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), similar to disclosures that charities are required to make. A union’s financials would then be made publicly available on the CRA website. The bill was supported by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business which has lobbied for greater transparency regarding how union dues are spent. In many cases, unions use dues to lobby and advocate causes that union members are not aware of or agree with.
Opponents viewed Bill C-317 as evidence of a concerted government attack on Canadian unions. It would appear that the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) played an instrumental role in the bill’s demise by helping NDP House Leader Joe Comartin with the point of order argument.
We will wait and see if the Bill is re-submitted properly.