Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Persons with Disabilities

Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Persons with Disabilities
Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills
and Social Development and the Status of
Persons with Disabilities
HUMA
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NUMBER 004
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1st SESSION
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EVIDENCE
Monday, March 21, 2016
Chair
Mr. Bryan May
42nd PARLIAMENT
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Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the
Status of Persons with Disabilities
Monday, March 21, 2016
● (1530)
[English]
The Chair (Mr. Bryan May (Cambridge, Lib.)): We're going to
get moving here as we have a very busy schedule. I thank everybody
for being on time. We are going to have to be on time if we're going
to get through everything. So, without any preamble, I believe we
have a motion.
Mr. Robillard.
[Translation]
Mr. Yves Robillard (Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, Lib.): Thank you,
Mr. Chair. Good afternoon everyone.
The motion I am submitting reads as follows:
That, pursuant to the order of reference of Monday, March 7, 2016, the committee
undertake a study of Bill C-4, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the
Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour
Relations Act and the Income Tax Act, which should include the following:
That four meetings be scheduled for the consideration of the bill, including this
meeting;
That this first meeting be devoted to a briefing from the Minister of Employment,
Workforce Development and Labour, and department officials;
That the second and third meetings be devoted to hearing various panels of
witnesses;
That the clause-by-clause consideration of the bill be scheduled for the fourth and
last meeting; and that any amendment proposed by members of the committee be
submitted to the clerk of the committee no later than 48 hours prior to the start of
clause-by-clause consideration of the bill;
That each witness meeting consist of two panels of witnesses consisting of up to
three witness organizations who shall be selected by the committee using the
regular witness apportionment and selection formula based on House of
Commons representation and that members of the committee submit their
witnesses lists to the clerk by no later than 5:00 p.m., Friday, March 25, 2016;
That the study commence immediately following the passing of this motion, as
legislative studies take precedence over other activities for the committee and
because the minister is readily available;
That the clerk of the committee be directed to work with the chair to ensure
witnesses are invited and ready for the start date for the study and subsequent
meetings as identified by the chair.
[English]
The Chair: Thank you.
Are there any debate, questions, or concerns before we move to a
vote?
(Motion agreed to)
The Chair: We are going to pause while we get the cameras all
set up. We'll get back here as soon as the minister and the technical
people tell us we're ready to go.
Thank you.
● (1530)
(Pause)
● (1540)
The Chair: On behalf of the Standing Committee on Human
Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons
with Disabilities, I would like to extend my thanks to Minister
Mihychuk for joining us today. Thank you very much.
Minister Mihychuk, without any preamble or further ado, I turn it
over to you for your introduction.
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk (Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour): Thank you very much. It's a real
pleasure for me to be here with so many of my colleagues who are
obviously interested in one of the most important areas of our work,
the welfare of Canadians.
One of the relationships that's very important is our relationship
with organized labour, and so we will be talking about Bill C-4 and
exactly that, building a stronger relationship with our organized
labour movements in Canada.
I'm proud to be here today to present for your consideration Bill
C-4, an act to amend the Canada Labour Code, the Parliamentary
Employment and Staff Relations Act, the Public Service Labour
Relations Act and the Income Tax Act. This bill, if passed by
Parliament, would repeal Bills C-377 and C-525, both of which have
been a detriment to unions and labour organizations.
Bill C-4 helps deliver on our commitment to restore a fair and
balanced approach to labour relations in this country, one that
balances the rights of unions with the rights of employers. Bill C-377
and Bill C-525, two bills adopted during the last session of the 41st
Parliament, upset that balance, and we believe must be repealed.
These bills have serious ramifications for workers and unions in
Canada. They put unions at a disadvantage. They also bypass the
tripartite consultation process involving employers, unions, and
governments, a process that has traditionally been used for federal
labour relations law reform in Canada and which contributed to
stable labour relations in the federal jurisdiction.
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Fair, balanced, and evidence-based policies must be developed
through real consultation and engagement. Our government believes
this is essential for the prosperity of workers and employers,
Canadian society, and the economy as a whole. When it comes to
labour law reform in the future, we are firmly committed to
meaningful engagement with unions, employers, other stakeholders,
the provinces, the territories, and the Canadian public.
To make sure the federal labour policy works in the best interest of
Canadians, we felt it was our duty to seek the repeal of Bill C-377
and Bill C-525. These bills were a solution in search of a problem.
First let me explain what these bills do. I'll start with Bill C-377.
March 21, 2016
bargaining agent to be decertified. Previously, the Canada Labour
Code required at least 35% support to trigger a union certification
vote. If the organization could show they had the majority's support,
they were automatically certified as a bargaining unit. Now under
Bill C-525, a party seeking to become a certified bargaining agent
faces more difficult odds. To be certified as a bargaining agent, they
need to demonstrate the support of at least 40% of the employees and
must proceed to a certification vote in all cases, even if majority
support is expressed. Previously, decertification was possible if the
party seeking the revocation of the unit certification demonstrated
majority support. Now representation votes must be conducted in all
cases when at least 40% support for decertification is demonstrated.
Bill C-377 amended the Income Tax Act to require all labour
organizations and labour trusts, including those under provincial
jurisdiction, to file detailed financial and other information with the
Minister of National Revenue which would then be made publicly
available on the CRA website.
This raises significant privacy concerns because it would include
detailed information on organizations, assets, and general financial
health as well as liabilities. This includes individual transactions over
$5,000, the salaries of certain officers, directors, and trustees, as well
as time spent by certain personnel on political or non-labour relations
activities. Failure to comply with these reporting requirements could
result in a fine of $1,000 for each day of non-compliance up to a
maximum of $25,000 per year.
In addition, Bill C-377 creates unnecessary red tape for unions
that are already financially accountable to their members. Section
110 of the Canada Labour Code requires unions as well as employer
organizations to provide financial statements to their members upon
request and free of charge. Most provinces have similar requirements
in their labour laws, so Bill C-377 duplicates accountability
measures that already exist. The bill also puts unions at a
disadvantage during the collective bargaining process by giving
employers access to key information about unions without being
required to reciprocate.
● (1545)
Bill C-377 has tilted the playing field in favour of employers. For
example, employers would know how much money the union has in
a strike fund for a possible work stoppage and how long they could
stay out if it came to a strike; so, the union's most important
negotiating lever is undermined. There have also been concerns
raised about the constitutionality of Bill C-377, because the objective
of the bill could be seen not as taxation, but as the regulation of
unions, which is in large part a matter of provincial jurisdiction.
Seven provinces spoke out against Bill C-377 for that very reason.
Bill C-377 is problematic for many reasons, but if it is inconsistent
with the Constitution then that alone should be reason enough to
repeal the legislative changes it made.
This brings me to Bill C-525. This bill changed the unions'
certification and decertification systems under the Canada Labour
Code, the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act, and
the Public Service Labour Relations Act. The bill replaced the
existing card check system with a mandatory vote system, despite
the fact the old system worked well for decades and there was little
pressure to change it. Bill C-525 makes it harder for a union to be
certified as a collective bargaining agent, and makes it easier for a
When we asked stakeholders what they thought of the new
certification rules, many said the previous card check system not
only was faster and more efficient, but it was also more likely to be
free of employer interference. Some have suggested that moving
away from the mandatory vote system and reverting to a card check
system is undemocratic. Statistics show that from 2004 to 2014 the
Canada Industrial Relations Board dealt with 23 cases involving
allegations of intimidation or coercion during an organizing
campaign, and only six were upheld. That's six cases in 10 years.
Of these six cases, four involved intimidation and coercion by an
employer. The other two were situations where two unions were
competing to represent the same group of employees, and one union
made allegations against the other. The card check system is a
perfectly democratic way of gauging support as it ensures that an
absolute majority of employees support the union, not just those who
come out and vote. In addition, the Canada Industrial Relations
Board and the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment
Board can order a vote if there are doubts about employees' support
for unionization. A union will not be certified unless the labour
board is satisfied that there is support for it by a majority of
employees.
● (1550)
By repealing Bill C-377 and Bill C-525, our government would
restore a fair and balanced approach to labour relations in Canada.
Successful collective bargaining and fairness in the employeremployee relationship are at the foundation of our economy. They
provide stability and predictability in the labour force, two vital
elements of a strong economy. To put it simply, good labour relations
are good for everyone. The issue is simple: Bill C-377 and Bill
C-525 diminish and weaken Canada's labour movement.
March 21, 2016
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Bill C-4 would help return balance to labour relations and restore
positive relations with provinces and territories. Our government
strongly believes that Bill C-4 should be passed. I look forward to
the committee's review of this important piece of legislation.
Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, Minister. I failed to recognize and
introduce the deputy minister of labour, Lori Sterling, so I want to
take this opportunity to do so.
Thank you for joining us as well today.
I believe our first question is coming from Mr. Deltell.
Mr. Gérard Deltell (Louis-Saint-Laurent, CPC): Thank you,
Mr. Chairman.
Madam Minister, welcome to the committee.
[Translation]
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
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● (1555)
[English]
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: Any member of any union can ask
what the union boss's wages are. In the private sector, it's not so
clear. If a worker wants to know how much the boss is making, that
is confidential information. What's good for employers is good for
the unions. We're talking about fairness and balance.
Mr. Gérard Deltell: I will recognize the minister's experience in
the NDP, but the point is that if you're talking about public business,
well, it's public. We can't ask about the high salaries at Bombardier,
just to give you an example. On the other hand, my question is also
about the next point of clause 12.
[Translation]
This is about the time devoted by staff to political activities and
lobbying and non-labour-related activities.
Mr. Chair, today we are considering Bill C-4, whose objective is
to undo two bills that had been adopted under our government.
These bills were based on transparency and democracy, with a secret
vote and accountability.
Why does the minister not want the unions to account for their
partisan activities?
When you join a union, you get tax credits. If we subscribe to the
principle that tax credits are public, in our opinion, accountability
should be as well.
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: The purpose of the legislation is to
restore fairness and balance. The two bills were an attempt to make
unionization more difficult at a time when we saw Canadians
choosing free will to unionize or not. In fact, the overall unionization
rate was dropping. The attack on unions was political, unwarranted,
and unnecessary.
[English]
Since union fees receive a big tax break, we really think they
should be made public, so the unions should be required to make
them public, but when we look at some clauses of the bill, they say
exactly the reverse. Let's talk about clause 12, which talks about the
the organization's assets, liabilities, income, and expenditures.
I am wondering why the minister wants to keep those hidden.
Why does she want to be sure that those assets and that information
will not be made public?
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: I want to thank the member for
asking the question. Really we are not about hiding information; in
fact, we are about having disclosure for the members. What was
involved with the bill was onerous legislation that required fiscal
reporting that jeopardized the business state of the union, and was
cumbersome, exceeding what is the norm for other non-profit
groups. For example, if we look at the registered charity information
return, this is the normal. It's about 10 pages long. The previous
government suggested that unions should have to provide 300 pages
of fiscal reporting. That is burdensome, full of red tape,
unacceptable, and completely not needed.
Mr. Gérard Deltell: In clause 12, precisely, we're talking about....
I will say it in French.
[Translation]
This is about the remuneration of certain leaders.
My question is clear. Why does the minister want the salary of
union leaders to remain confidential?
[English]
Mr. Gérard Deltell: I would like to know how the minister can
explain that it is more difficult to have good information and
transparency. We are talking about transparency. We are talking
about reddition de comptes, as we used to say in French, you know,
in the democracy. When you receive tax breaks, union fees with tax
breaks, you have to be transparent. My question is whether the
minister thinks that the public money is well-served if you hide the
political activities of the union bosses.
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: Thank you for the question. In most
jurisdictions where I've had the opportunity to participate politically,
donations from businesses and unions are actually prohibited. Where
they are not prohibited, the standard for disclosure needs to be fair
and reasonable. What was expected here was unfair and unreasonable, and it jeopardized the business security of the union itself.
Mr. Gérard Deltell: Let me read the clauses to the minister—
The Chair: You have about 10 seconds.
Mr. Gérard Deltell: —because what she said was not important
is quite important: “time spent by certain personnel on political,
lobbying and non-labour relations activities”.
What is wrong with that? How come some union bosses will not
tell the people how much time they spend on political activities?
The Chair: That's your time, sir.
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Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: The suggestion by the member that
somehow union leaders are choosing to withhold information, which
would put them in contravention of the Lobbying Act or other
disclosures of jurisdictions, is controversial and I would suggest
unreasonable.
Union leaders and trade unions are subject to the laws and rules of
the Lobbying Act, and each individual provincial jurisdiction has
made it very strict. Whatever system occurs must be fair for
employers and employees, and most jurisdictions actually prohibit
active campaigning for parties. This issue perhaps is a bit of a red
herring, as they say.
The Chair: Thank you.
Mr. Ruimy, go ahead.
Mr. Dan Ruimy (Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, Lib.): Thank
you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, Minister.
We were talking about transparency. My understanding is that this
information is available through most provinces already. Is it not?
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: Absolutely. Most provinces have this
in their own provincial requirements, and all the information is
available to any member on request.
● (1600)
Mr. Dan Ruimy: Thank you.
March 21, 2016
Scotia, and P.E.I.—allege that Bill C-377 was potentially unconstitutional by encroaching upon provincial jurisdiction over labour
issues. British Columbia did support the bill.
Some business organizations, such as the Canadian Federation of
Independent Business, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and
Merit Canada, did express support for Bill C-377. Market-orientated
think tanks like the Fraser Institute and the Montreal Economic
Institute had previously expressed support for expanding statutory
union financial disclosure requirements.
The Chair: Thank you.
Mr. Sangha, you have time for a quick question.
Mr. Ramesh Sangha (Brampton Centre, Lib.): Thank you, Mr.
Chair.
Many supporters of Bill C-377 and Bill C-525 have dismissed the
criticism that they harm, not help, labour relations because they were
done through private members' bills, outside the established tripartite
process that has been followed for decades to make major
amendments to the Canada Labour Code.
When you spoke with stakeholders, how did they react to Bill
C-377 when it was passed last year? Did you discuss proposed
amendments in Bill C-4 with stakeholders, and what was their
response?
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: Thank you for the question.
Could you explain to the committee the normal process to make
major amendments and the importance of the process for stability in
labour relations?
First, the key labour organizations, including the Canadian Labour
Congress, criticized Bill C-377 on the basis that it would upset the
existing labour relations balance between unions and employers by
requiring unions to publicly disclose key financial information,
including the strike fund, without requiring employers to reciprocate.
Second, it creates unnecessary and redundant financial disclosure
obligations, since union financial disclosure is already addressed in
the Canada Labour Code and in many provincial labour statutes.
Third, the bill is biased against unions and ignores other types of
organizations, such as professional associations, which also receive
favourable treatment under tax law. Finally, the bill invades the
privacy of labour organizations and their members.
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: Let me try to understand the
question. What is the difference between card check versus voting,
or...?
Mr. Ramesh Sangha: No, no. My question is simple. Generally
our laws are not made through private members' bills. These bills are
both private members' bills with remedial law, remedial enactment.
I'm wondering about the effect.
Several labour organizations indicated their intention to challenge
the provisions enacted by Bill C-377 on constitutional grounds. The
Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, AUPE, has launched a
constitutional challenge to Bill C-377, which is before the Alberta
Court of Queen's Bench. Due to the government's stated intention to
repeal the Income Tax Act provisions enacted by the bill, the Alberta
Union of Provincial Employees has agreed to adjourn the application
without any further dates for hearings being set.
The process of any kind of labour law change requires the
involvement and participation of three major constituents. Typically
we would work with the labour movement, industrial associations
and business groups, and government. All three would then come
forward with a system that is vigorously reviewed and is beneficial
to all three models.
The Canadian Bar Association, not normally known to be
particularly heavily unionized, and the Office of the Privacy
Commissioner raised concerns that Bill C-377 could breach
individual privacy rights. The Bar Association suggested the bill
may be subject to legal challenges on these grounds. Many provinces
—Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova
The Chair: You have about one minute, Minister.
● (1605)
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: Okay. I understand.
In this case, that process of consultation was exempted. That
resulted in difficulties between all three parties, quite frankly.
The Chair: Thank you.
Ms. Ashton.
March 21, 2016
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Ms. Niki Ashton (Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, NDP): I'll be
giving my time to my colleague, our critic for labour, Sheri Benson.
The Chair: Welcome.
Ms. Sheri Benson (Saskatoon West, NDP): Thank you very
much.
Welcome, Minister, and congratulations on your appointment.
I want to give a big shout-out to communities right across Canada,
trade unions, labour unions, and citizens groups who spoke out
against the two bills we're talking about, Bill C-377 and Bill C-525.
Having come from the charitable sector and having experienced
the previous government's sort of chill on the work we did, and of
course the pieces under the guise of accountability around first
nations, to me this is something along those lines that we need to
repeal. We're on side, and I'm glad we're doing it. It's unfortunate we
have to spend time going backwards to get where we were 10 years
ago. However, I commend you on that.
You did bring up the Canada Labour Code, and I did want to take
this opportunity to speak about that. We know the Canada Labour
Code is about 60 years out of date. There was a review with some
recommendations that were never implemented. I'm wondering if I
could take this opportunity to ask the minister about a possible
timeline or some idea for the committee about updating and
modernizing the Canada Labour Code.
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: I am aware the labour code needs
revision, and we intend to bring in changes. We have already started
the discussion on changes on flex time and the fact that we have a
huge number of Canadians who are vulnerable workers no longer
protected by trade unions and no longer protected and supported by
EI. Unfortunately, a lot of them disproportionately are women and
single mothers who are trying to juggle family and work.
We will be consulting and bringing in changes to the labour code
so it becomes more sensitive to the new realities. We will be
consulting with Canadians on those changes. They include things
like flex time and parental leave, looking at somehow ensuring that
fathers can participate more fully, looking at helping women who
wish to pursue their careers and perhaps for family reasons are more
likely to stay at home.
We will be coming out with changes. I'm hoping we'll see
something by the fall session.
Ms. Sheri Benson: Thank you very much, Minister.
I'd like to take the opportunity to suggest that for a lot of
Canadians, life is becoming unaffordable. We know that one
important thing when we talk about labour rights and the rights of
workers is the right to earn a living and to afford to live. That's more
of a comment, but I'd like to hear your thoughts on it. Part of that
would be to look at the Canada Labour Code.
I think we need to start the conversation about having a federal
minimum wage. We're the only jurisdiction in the country that
doesn't have that for federally regulated workers. Could you offer us
a comment on whether that will be part of your work this year and in
the fall?
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● (1610)
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: When we look at any program
federally, we need to be cautious. If you look at temporary foreign
workers, the whole idea that there's one standard system that's
applicable for the whole country hasn't worked. Even if there are
other programs that are dependent on the business climate of a
jurisdiction, we need to be very careful. At this time that issue is
addressed by the provincial standards on minimum wage.
The Chair: You have time for a quick question.
Ms. Sheri Benson: I hear what you're saying. I do think it is our
role as a part of the federal jurisdiction to provide the same
protection of minimum wage that we do to those workers who work
provincially.
I'm strongly urging a $15 minimum wage. It's 2016 for a lot of
things. I think one of those things is a federal minimum wage.
Thank you.
The Chair: Next, we have Ms. Tassi.
Ms. Filomena Tassi (Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas,
Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Welcome, Minister, and thank you for your presence here.
Has the department done any research on card check versus
mandatory vote?
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: Yes, we have. In fact, the department
produced a report back in 2013. At that time the minister was Kellie
Leitch, who said, “In this study, we examined the link between the
adoption of a mandatory vote regime and this decline in business
sector union density.”
As I mentioned before, we've seen a decrease in unionization over
the last few decades. We found the use of the mandatory voting, MV,
regime has been an important factor in the decline in union density in
the Canadian business sector. It was estimated that, had all Canadian
jurisdictions not used an MV regime for union certification starting
in 1997, business sector union density would have been substantially
higher in 2012. Simulations show that union density would have
increased by around half a percentage point from 1997 instead of
dropping by four percentage points.
I'd like to table the report for the committee. I think it's very
interesting to see the statistics on the effects of mandatory voting
versus card check. The card check system has been proven over the
years to be very satisfactory, very efficient, and democratic. It has
worked well. The change actually reduced unionization.
Ms. Filomena Tassi: Thank you, Minister. To follow up on that,
you mentioned that the report is dated November 2013. Is that right?
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: November 2013.
Ms. Filomena Tassi: Okay.
Bill C-525 was passed in April 2014. Is that correct?
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: Yes.
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Ms. Filomena Tassi: Was the department's research publicly
available? I'm just wondering why the report was dated November
2013 and the bill was passed in 2014.
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: No, it was not made publicly
available. It was internal departmental research. It was of course
available to the minister, to exempt staff, and one would assume to
the Prime Minister's Office. This would have been part of the
rationale for bringing in the bills when they did.
Ms. Filomena Tassi: Okay, thank you. I'm just curious as to why,
if you have a report that actually supports the card check process, the
evidence-based report would be hidden or kept from the public when
this was the very issue that was being discussed.
Do you have any further comments on why a report that would
support the current system would be hidden and not be circulated
and supported? It's based on evidence and research that's been done.
Do you have any reason or knowledge as to why it was not made
public?
● (1615)
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: This is a bit of speculation, and I
wasn't in the Conservative caucus, although there were members that
I came to officially see in my role as a member of the exploration
industry in Canada. I know many of the members of the former
government. Business people generally want harmony in the
workplace.
There are sometimes political agendas that go well beyond what
business would find reasonable or even asked for. In this case I think
the bills were clearly an attack on organized labour at a time when it
wasn't called for and wasn't merited.
The decision to unionize really comes down to Canadians
themselves. More and more of our young generation are looking
at new models of employment and are not choosing to become
unionized. That's by their choice. They don't need a heavy-handed
government to bring in tricks that make unionization more difficult.
They have the intelligence and we have the faith that Canadians are
choosing the right way. It seemed to be a purely political decision
because the overall trend, as the report shows, is that Canadians were
choosing not to become unionized. This isn't a serious threat to
businesses, and in fact, the report indicates that it wasn't warranted.
One would have to conclude that it was a political agenda.
The Chair: Thank you, Minister.
Mr. Gérard Deltell: Mr. Chairman, on a point of order, I think
that usually when someone wants to table a document you have to
ask permission to do so.
The Chair: Fair enough.
Mr. Gérard Deltell: I want to tell the member that I welcome any
document. I have no problem with that, but I wish, I want, and I
hope that the government would be inspired by us when in question
period we want to table very important documents.
Thank you.
The Chair: Fair enough. That is in the House. In committee, as
long as it is given to the clerk, which it has been, and as long as it is
in both official languages, what Minister Mihychuk has done is
actually proper.
March 21, 2016
Thank you.
But in the House, you're absolutely correct.
We'll move to Mr. Long.
Mr. Wayne Long (Saint John—Rothesay, Lib.): Thank you,
Madam Minister, for coming, and congratulations on moving so
forcefully forward on Bill C-4.
In 2012, Mr. Cuzner, as labour critic, wrote to the Canada
Revenue Agency and asked that they provide the same information
on its employees that Bill C-377 would require of labour
organizations. They said they could not provide the information
because the Privacy Act precludes the CRA from disclosing personal
information about its employees.
Do you find it strange that the Conservatives were asking unions
to provide private information that their own agency, CRA, refused
to provide because of privacy concerns? Could you elaborate on
that? Thank you.
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: Once again, the idea that we have to
provide information to the public is now a standard principle. In fact,
even with something like this, I was involved with many small
businesses, and most small businesses would find this cumbersome.
This is about 10 or 20 pages long. The idea that you would be
required to submit hundreds of pages of financial information
annually not only would cause a huge red tape administrative burden
for the unions, but in fact it also would have cost government itself,
CRA, an extra $2 million annually to go through these reports to
ensure that every box was checked off, that every little box was filled
out.
Was that necessary? No. It created a cost burden for government
and a huge cost burden for trade unions and trusts that were going to
be impacted by that. That is why in December we indicated that we
were moving forward with this bill to relieve the financial pressures
on CRA, which did not think the reports were a good idea, and to
indicate to trusts and unions that they would not be required to
submit tombs of information that, for their members, was already
public and available.
● (1620)
Mr. Wayne Long: Madam Minister, are there any other instances
within the CRA or, to your knowledge, within the federal
government where citizens have their name, salary, and the detailed
reasons for receiving it posted on the World Wide Web?
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: Well, I'm not familiar with anywhere
else where that is submitted and provided. This is clearly an issue of
privacy and is not normally a requirement.
Mr. Wayne Long: Thank you.
I'll share my remaining time with Mr. Robillard.
March 21, 2016
HUMA-04
The Chair: Mr. Robillard.
[Translation]
Mr. Yves Robillard: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I welcome all of the
witnesses.
7
I was a member of a union for many years. Are you or have you
been a member of a union?
● (1625)
Madam Minister, may I thank you for your presence among us
here today. I also thank you, as well as your colleagues, for the
information you are sharing with us before this committee.
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: Yes, I have been a member of
CUPE. I was an earth scientist, a geologist with the Manitoba
government, and then was an employer, both as a provincial minister
in Manitoba and as an employer in a small business. I am not a union
member, but I have been, yes.
It goes without saying that this bill is important for the riding I
represent, Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, and for the country as a whole. From
coast to coast, the important role unions play in protecting the rights
of Canadian workers touches all of us, directly or indirectly. And so I
am going to ask you the following question.
Mr. Mark Warawa: Minister, you held up two documents, one
with many pages and one that was very small. I think the larger one
represents typical annual reporting for an average-sized union. Is that
right?
First of all, I want to say that I am going to be speaking French.
Madam Minister, will Bill C-4 make it easier for employees to
organize, and how will it affect union dues?
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: Thank you for the question.
[English]
Unfortunately, I'm going to have to speak in English.
Mr. Yves Robillard: No problem.
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: Will it make it easier to unionize?
The answer to that is yes. I don't think businesses or Canadians need
to be afraid of that.
In fact, let's reflect on the value that unions have provided. Over
the decades, unions have been the stalwarts of fighting back on child
labour, on improving workplace occupational health standards, on
calling for equal pay for equal work, and on bringing in a place for
women and indigenous people. They fight for the disabled, and of
course for minimum wage.
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: This is a report form disclosure. It's
called form LM-2 Labor Organization Annual Report. In the U.S. the
Screen Actors Guild has 237,000 members, and I'm informed that
this was the model used for Bill C-377. This is a report that we
would have seen coming in this year.
Mr. Mark Warawa: Are you speaking hypothetically? Bill
C-377 was given royal assent just before the last Parliament ended.
Since it was given royal assent, has there been any annual reporting
through it?
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: No.
Mr. Mark Warawa: Is this an example of what you think it might
be?
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: That's correct.
As you know, in Winnipeg we had the big strike in 1919, when
unions and the business community had two views. What resulted
was a better understanding. Unfortunately, it came head to head, but
unions, from that time, have been a centrepiece not only of human
rights here in Canada but of human rights around the world. Even
though unions are no longer as prominent and prolific as they were,
they are still inspirational leaders when it comes to rights and
benefits for workers, and for all workers, whether they're in a union
or not.
Mr. Mark Warawa: The smaller one is for an NGO doing annual
reporting. Is that right?
I think this bill would facilitate unionization. I don't think we can
expect to see a massive increase in unions. I think they deserve our
respect. The fact is they have a strong history of representing
Canadian workers, and they have a very strong role internationally. I
would not expect to see a huge number of unions, and I wouldn't
expect to see union dues going up either. I think things will be the
status quo.
Mr. Mark Warawa: So you are saying one is fair and the other
one is onerous. Are you suggesting then that under Bill C-4 we use
the smaller model?
The Chair: Thank you, Minister.
Mr. Warawa.
Mr. Mark Warawa (Langley—Aldergrove, CPC): Minister, it's
a treat to have you here. Congratulations on your very important
ministry. We look forward to working with you.
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: This one is a registered charity
information return from the Canada Revenue Agency. This is the
standard non-profit return, which is still a bit heavy in the
documentation. It would have fulfilled the requirements presented
in Bill C-377.
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: I'm suggesting that red tape is not
good, and I'm big on streamlining regulations. Having been in small
business, I can tell you that these kinds of forms are time-consuming
and take up a lot of resources. I'm not even saying that these 20 or
however many pages are easy to fill out.
Mr. Mark Warawa: Minister, then why were you using that as an
example? I thought that was your example of fairness. So you're
suggesting fairness is nothing. Is that correct?
8
HUMA-04
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: This document is what is required of
non-profit organizations. This was potentially what the past
Conservative government intended unions to present. This is exactly
why it's not fair. In fact, I am in favour of fairness and balance—
Mr. Mark Warawa: Minister, was Bill C-377 a government bill
or was it a private member's bill?
The Chair: Can we let the minister finish answering the question?
Mr. Mark Warawa: Well, I have limited time, Chair, and so I'm
—
The Chair: I understand, and we're going to—
Mr. Mark Warawa: Minister, you said it was a Conservative
government bill. In fact, it was a private member's bill by Russ
Hiebert. He was number one in the last Parliament, and Ted Falk is
number one in this Parliament. Being number one is very important.
It took him four years to get it through, and in those four years, there
was lots of debate and lots of consultation. It was not a government
bill. It was a private member's bill. I was fortunate enough to get
number 79 in the last Parliament and was fortunate enough to
introduce.... It's a lot of work and it's very important. You represent
your community. Mr. Hiebert, who is no longer an MP since he
didn't run again, worked very hard for four years to get that through.
There was a lot of consultation.
You touched on the importance of consultation, that fair, balanced,
and evidence-based policies must be developed through real
consultation and engagement. You also went on to say that you're
firmly committed to meaningful engagement with unions. You
mentioned that—and I'm proud to have been a member of a union—
and then you went on to say that you want to consult meaningfully
with employers, other stakeholders, provinces, territories, and the
Canadian public. Russ Hiebert spent four years.
Bill C-4 has been one of the pilot pieces of legislation from the
Liberal government. Could you tell us how this is creating jobs,
since that's your number one mandate? What did the consultations
look like? Did you consult with more than unions?
● (1630)
The Chair: Very briefly, Minister.
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: We consulted with millions of
Canadians. We indicated right from the start of the election that these
two bills were not only punitive, but they also were not required.
They caused unfairness to the relationship between business and
unions.
During the election in 2015, Canadians spoke out against an
agenda of attack on unions and workers in Canada, and voted for
change.
Yes, we consulted with the provinces. Even more importantly, we
consulted with Canadians.
The Chair: Mr. Ruimy.
Mr. Dan Ruimy: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Speaking to my colleague on the other side, what concerns did
you have that the reporting requirements found in Bill C-377
interfered with the internal operations of labour organizations or
actually even forced unions to disclose information that would
disadvantage them during collective bargaining?
March 21, 2016
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: By giving employers access to
unions' financial information, including strike funds, without
requiring employers to reciprocate, the reporting requirements
included in Bill C-377 could upset the existing labour relations
balance and disadvantage unions in the collective bargaining
process.
If two parties are at the table, there are certain measures you wish
to hold confidential if you're in a bargaining situation, and that
includes how much you have in your strike fund, or how much you
have in your replacement worker fund. This information is
confidential. The bill would have made it not so, and therefore,
significantly negatively impacted the unions in their ability to
negotiate.
The Chair: Mr. Sangha.
Mr. Ramesh Sangha: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Is the union certification and decertification process different at
the provincial and federal levels?
The Chair: Do we want to come back to that one? We can move
on to another question.
Ms. Tassi.
Ms. Filomena Tassi: Minister, the past two privacy commissioners raised serious concerns about the information that Bill C-377
requires. Mrs. Jennifer Stoddard said, “Requiring the names of all
individuals earning or receiving more than $5,000, as well as the
amounts they receive, to be published on a website, is a serious
breach of privacy.” The current commissioner, Mr. Therrien, said
that the bill goes too far.
The president of the Canadian Police Association, Tom Stamatakis, said that he was deeply concerned for his police officers and
their safety, and security if this information was to be released.
Do you agree with the comments that were made, and do you have
concerns about the amount of private information that would be
revealed because of Bill C-377?
● (1635)
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: Absolutely. The disclosure of
salaries is one of those controversial issues.
We used to have a radio station in Winnipeg that would read out
on the radio to a million people the salary of every government civil
servant. Not only was it difficult for those individuals, but it also
caused strife within the workplace itself.
We're much more sensitive to privacy now and the fact that what
we make, for the most part, is confidential. It seriously impacts,
obviously, work sites, which I'm familiar with, personal lives, and
relationships within families. This legislation would have caused
much more disharmony, a situation which was clearly not required,
did not benefit labour relations in any way, which was punitive, and
looked to seemingly want to cause trouble for unions.
March 21, 2016
HUMA-04
The privacy commissioners raised the issue; our provinces raised
the issue, and individual Canadians felt it was outrageous. So, yes, I
agree that disclosing that kind of information for anything over
$5,000 is completely unwarranted.
The Chair: Do we have a follow-up with the previous question?
If not, we'll move on.
Just very briefly, about 30 seconds.
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: All right.
Yes, there are a number of different jurisdictions. They're different
across the provinces, so we have put together the fact that, depending
on the triggering vote, it varies. For Alberta, it's at 40%. B.C. is 45%.
Manitoba is 40%. New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and
Ontario are 40%. For P.E.I., it's at the discretion of the labour
relations board. Quebec is 35%. Saskatchewan is 45%. It varies from
jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Mr. Zimmer.
Mr. Bob Zimmer (Prince George—Peace River—Northern
Rockies, CPC): Thank you, Chair.
Thank you, Minister, for appearing with us today.
I have three questions and I'll try to get through them all.
I'll start with a statement you made that organizations “provide
financial statements to their members upon request and free of
charge”. You said that this is something that's available now. Why
then would it be onerous to do that publicly? It's the same
information, so why would it be onerous?
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: What was required in the bill was
much more onerous than what is available at the present time.
Something of this size not only caused enormous administrative
headaches for any organization, but it also was far more than what
CRA would recommend, and in fact it would have ended up costing
us $2 million a year.
Information that's available to the members is provided by unions,
and that's the standard. I don't think there's any requirement to make
it anything else.
9
● (1640)
Mr. Bob Zimmer: I have one last question.
I refer to a document that we received from the Library of
Parliament talking about Bill C-377, etc., which states, “Countries
like the United States and Germany have had cases of union
corruption. Disclosure schemes have led to the recovery of massive
amounts of money, and forced individuals who had committed
offences out of the offending unions.”
It seems to be a choice of choosing accountability to combat
corruption or choosing corruption, or that's what seems to be the
choice for me, so my question for you as minister is, if given the
choice between accountability and corruption, what would be your
choice?
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: I find the example enlightening, and
you're definitely trying to suggest that unions are corrupt, but we
haven't had this situation in Canada. You're picking jurisdictions in
Germany, and I believe you said the U.S.A. or United Kingdom. I'm
sorry—
Mr. Bob Zimmer: Minister, this is precisely why we had the
legislation in the first place, to combat corruption at these levels. By
making the accounts public, we're able to address corruption. That's
exactly what the legislation was meant to do. It strikes me as in
contrast to accountability when a government that talks about
accountability does something where the appearance is to hide
something.
It brings me back to my question. If the choice is between
accountability and corruption, what would be your choice?
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: I think if the member has some idea
of corruption in the trade union movement, he is required, or I would
encourage him to report such activities—
Mr. Bob Zimmer: I didn't say “trade unions”. I don't know if you
know something I don't, but I didn't say “trade unions“.
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: That's the norm in the Canadian
government. In fact, if there are allegations of some kind of
corruption, it should be clearly reported, and action would be taken.
Mr. Bob Zimmer: That brings me to the next question about
accountability.
I think that this hypothetical case, where you're trying to bring in a
bill to stem something that doesn't exist, is clearly a political
objective, rather than one based on the facts.
During the last election, the party across the way talked about
accountability as being paramount. This is a bill that makes unions
accountable for the union dues that are collected from union
members, a bill that brings back accountability to its members. Why
would you immediately reverse such legislation that encourages such
accountability?
Mr. Bob Zimmer: On the contrary, Minister. The document
actually states, “Countries like the United States and Germany have
had cases of union corruption. Disclosure schemes have led to the
recovery of massive amounts of money...”.
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: Unions are one of the most
democratic institutions that I know of. They often have regular
membership meetings with financial disclosure available at any time.
This exceeds the norm, for instance, for small business or the
business community. I think being accountable has been a principle
of the unions since they were established. They are a members
organization and believe in being open and accountable. I think that
the system works well.
These are facts. We're talking about accountability legislation
being able to combat corruption. My question for you is, do you
support accountability or corruption?
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: If the member is suggesting that
unions in Canada are corrupt, I recommend that he name them.
Mr. Bob Zimmer: What about the Charbonneau commission? It
took a commission to bring this up, to make it accountable so that we
saw it publicly.
10
HUMA-04
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: [Technical difficulty—Editor] corruption. In that case, not only were there individuals who were
charged, there were also political individuals involved. If there's any
law-breaking, I think it must be reported, and action would be taken.
The Chair: Ms. Ashton.
Ms. Niki Ashton: Mr. Chair, I want to make a comment.
My Conservative colleagues remind me of generals fighting the
last war. In the last election Canadians spoke overwhelmingly
against the politics of division of the previous government. There
were major flashpoints, including the way in which working people
and their leaders in the union movement spoke out against antidemocratic bills that were being imposed on them. It was an
approach that was, I would say, profoundly un-Canadian, given that
we are in a country where people benefit from the struggles that the
labour movement has waged. To hear the reference that this is
somehow disrespectful of private members' bills is absurd. I was
here, and we saw the way in which the government touted this: yes,
it was a private member's bill but it was in accord with the
government agenda.
I believe it is time to move on. Like my colleague Ms. Benson, I
want to signal our support for this action by the government. I want
to acknowledge the struggle that was waged by many in the labour
movement, from the Canadian Labour Congress to the firefighters
unions, to associations representing people in sectors where they
can't unionize. People overwhelmingly spoke out against this
horrifying, undemocratic assault on their rights.
As we go forward, I would hope we continue to support the
demands being made by many in the labour movement. While we
applaud this action from the government, we realize that it's not just
about repealing bad bills put forward by the previous government,
but it's also about making progress.
What we are hearing about from members of the labour movement
is the need to make progress when it comes to employment insurance
and expanding pensions, including the Canada pension plan, when it
comes to supporting the federal minimum wage, and when it comes
to investing in programming, like a national child care plan. Those
are things we're hearing about from the labour movement. We
support them in these matters, and we hope that the government will
see fit to support them as well.
I want to touch on a theme raised by my colleague and reflected
on by the minister, namely, the rise in part-time, temporary, and selfemployed workers in our country. We know that this is changing the
nature of work and the workplace. What we're talking about is a rise
in precarious work. We know that precarious work, certainly at the
rate we're seeing it, leads to growing inequality and threatens the
future of an entire generation. We're seeing that the trend is
particularly acute in my generation, the millennial generation.
There are major barriers to people claiming what they deserve,
whether it's the recognition of independent contractors or the way in
which EI is currently set up. I'm wondering what the minister can tell
us about her plans to address the situation that many young people
and many Canadians are facing when it comes to the rise of
precarious work.
March 21, 2016
● (1645)
The Chair: Before we hear from the minister, that's actually all
your time, I'm afraid. It was a three-minute question, but that was
impressive.
If the minister wishes to answer the question, that's fine. I was
going to give you a moment, if you wish, to close, and to bring
anything forward that you feel is necessary.
Hon. MaryAnn Mihychuk: Member Ashton's comments are true
and illustrate the challenges that we face when we look at changing
massive structures like employment insurance.
I look forward to working with all of you on making the system
more responsive to Canadians. I encourage you to look to passing
Bill C-4. I look for your support, because we do want to re-establish
positive, harmonious relationships between our business groups and
our union groups through a mutually respectful relationship. Bill C-4
would do that.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Chair: Minister, on behalf of the committee, I want to thank
you for attending today. We went quite a bit beyond the time that we
had. I really do appreciate your sticking around for all the questions.
We do have some department officials who will be taking your
seat in just a moment. Thank you again, and we really do appreciate
your attendance today.
We're going to suspend while we play musical chairs.
We'll be back for the next round.
● (1645)
(Pause)
● (1650)
The Chair: I want to welcome the department officials. You're not
sitting in the order that I have written down here, but that's okay.
From ESDC, we have Chantale Clarke, policy officer, strategic
policy and legislative reform, labour law analysis, labour program.
You must have a very large business card. We also have Anthony
Giles, assistant deputy minister, policy, dispute resolution, and
international affairs, labour program.
From CRA, we have Costa Dimitrakopoulos, director general,
legislative policy directorate, legislative policy and regulatory affairs
branch.
From the Department of Finance, we have Blaine Langdon, chief,
charities, personal income tax division, tax policy branch.
Thank you all for joining us today. We have you for only about 20
or 25 minutes because we have some other business that we have to
attend to before the end of the day.
I believe our first question goes to Mr. Deltell.
March 21, 2016
HUMA-04
[Translation]
Mr. Gérard Deltell: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I welcome the
witnesses and their contribution to the work of this parliamentary
committee.
11
Let's go back to clause 12, which was discussed earlier in the
questions addressed to the minister. The minister has said repeatedly
that this makes no sense, that this is red tape, and that a lot of
research has to be done.
Let's look at the bill clause-by-clause. In the notes we were given,
we find very relevant explanations concerning certain sections. I
want you to look at three sections among others, and especially at
verbs and the terms that are used.
Clause 12 refers to the assets, liabilities, income and expenditures
of the organization. I would like the officials to tell me whether the
unions must disclose that information to their members.
I direct your attention to clause 4. It states that “the Canada
Industrial Relations Board (CIRB) would have the discretion to
inquire into the application, either by way of a representation vote or
in other way considered appropriate [...]”
Mr. Anthony Giles: There is a long-standing provision in the
Canada Labour Code that entitles members to ask for free copies of
the financial statements of their union. The form and content of these
statements are not described in detail.
I would like you to describe what is meant, technically, by the
term “discretion”?
Mr. Gérard Deltell: However, that can include the assets,
liabilities and income and expenses of the organization, correct?
Mr. Anthony Giles (Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy, Dispute
Resolution and International Affairs, Labour Program, Department of Employment and Social Development): Technically,
discretion signifies that the board must consider all of the
circumstances surrounding the situation at issue and decide, given
the circumstances, which method will reflect the views of the
workers.
Mr. Anthony Giles: Normally, that is included. If the information
is not sufficient, the board has the power to ask the union to provide
more detailed information.
It is up to the board to determine its own rules. I cannot answer
more specifically in their stead.
● (1655)
Moreover, I would like to know if the salaries of the union
executives can be disclosed to the members.
Mr. Gérard Deltell: Fine.
Let's go further. Let's look at clause 5.
Claude 5 deals with the Public Service Labour Relations and
Employment Board. A new paragraph would also be added to give
the PSLREB the discretion to order that a representation vote be
held. Once again we see the same discretionary power. This is a very
subjective power for a body made up of unelected people, who can
decide what is right or wrong.
Is that correct?
Mr. Anthony Giles: Yes, if memory serves, that provision has
been a part of the law for decades and has worked very well.
The federal public sector is slightly different from the federal
private sector, in that it involves important organizations and very
complex negotiation units. At the time, legislators had decided to
give this board, which is made up of experts, the discretion of
deciding on the appropriate method.
Mr. Gérard Deltell: We could continue a long time like this.
Clauses 7, 8 and 9 discuss matters that are left to the discretion of
the board. Clause 11 states that the board would have discretionary
powers. We can see that a lot of subjective powers are being given to
an independent organization. We cannot really oppose that as such,
but we want to highlight the fact that decisions which may be the
object of a secret consultation by the members of a union using
secret ballots could be subject to the discretion of unelected people
who may decide if a provision is advantageous for the members or
not.
Is this information already in the public domain?
Mr. Gérard Deltell: According to section 149.01, which will be
repealed, this is already in the public domain. We can see that the
members of the union may have access to that information.
Mr. Anthony Giles: I don't know.
Mr. Gérard Deltell: To my knowledge, they can be. This
concerns the trustee as well as certain employees, and it says that a
unionized worker has access to that information when he or she
requests it. That is exactly what we were proposing.
It also talks about the time the staff spends on political activities
and lobbying as well as other non-labour relations activities.
Can a unionized worker have access to that information?
Mr. Anthony Giles: I expect that that varies according to the
union. The union may make that choice, or the members may ask
questions on that, but to my knowledge there is no law forcing the
union to disclose that information.
Mr. Gérard Deltell: Yes, I understand. The law exists, but you
want to repeal it.
From what we understand, all of the information that could be
requested under these laws is already accessible to unionized
workers.
[English]
The Chair: Thank you.
I believe we are going to Mr. Robillard.
[Translation]
Mr. Yves Robillard: Will Bill C-4 have repercussions on the
Canada Industrial Relations Board and the Public Service Labour
Relations and Employment Board?
12
HUMA-04
● (1700)
Mr. Anthony Giles: Yes, of course, because if Bill C-4 is
adopted, the number of votes held by these two boards will certainly
decrease, which will reduce their expenses or the funds allocated to
these matters.
Mr. Yves Robillard: Very well. Thank you.
[English]
The Chair: Mr. Ruimy, go ahead.
Mr. Dan Ruimy: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Independent research in Canada supports the department's own
research that mandatory vote contributes directly to a declining rate
of unionization. Studies by researchers such as Sara Slinn and Chris
Riddell have demonstrated that under a mandatory voting system,
employer interference, and more so employee fear of employer
interference, is a real phenomenon. It's effective, and it's more
effective under votes than under card-based mechanisms. The
department's studies reference some of these studies.
Can you comment on this point at all?
Mr. Anthony Giles: I would say the majority of studies that have
been conducted into this question, certainly those in Canada, indicate
as you suggest, that the introduction of mandatory voting does
reduce the number of applications for certification, their success rate,
and ultimately the union density rate in the jurisdictions combined.
As for why that is, there are various theories, one of which you've
just stated. In the context of an election, because the election takes a
certain amount of time, there's always the scope for employer
interference or attempts to persuade employees to vote against. There
are competing theories that votes reveal true preferences.
None of the studies I'm aware of are able to determine which of
those reasons is the true one, or whether indeed, as is most likely the
case, it's a mix of the two.
Mr. Dan Ruimy: May I ask a follow-up question?
The Chair: Yes, absolutely. You have about three minutes.
Mr. Dan Ruimy: I want to ask Mr. Deltell a follow-up question.
In his comments he was referring to information that's already
available.
The Chair: Mr. Ruimy, you shouldn't refer questions to Mr.
Deltell. You can ask the witnesses their opinion on a question.
Mr. Dan Ruimy: Oh, I'm sorry.
My colleague on the other side said a lot of this information is
already publicly available. If that information is already available,
and putting more burden back onto the unions, what's the sense of
doing that in your opinion? How does that affect their own
operations and administration? Do you find that as being overburdensome?
Mr. Anthony Giles: I won't comment on whether it's overburdensome, but it is clear that compared to the reporting
requirements under the Canada Labour Code, which are to provide
members with existing financial statements, that entails less effort on
the part of a union than it would be to respect all of the reporting
requirements that were adopted in Bill C-377.
The Chair: Thank you.
March 21, 2016
Ms. Benson.
Ms. Sheri Benson: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you to the folks
for coming to help us look at the issue a bit further. I'm not sure
whom to address this question to, so perhaps you can share your
expertise.
My background is in the charitable sector, and I know about the
idea that you are receiving some kind of benefit through donations.
People are getting the benefit. They're applying for a credit. There's
this obligation to file information so it's transparent. It gives people
some good information about where those charitable dollars are
going.
It's also my understanding there was opposition to some of those
changes in there and sharing more information than was felt
necessary. I feel like this is a continuation of that.
To me there's no difference. Large corporations receive tax credits,
and they receive subsidies and all kinds of exchanges with
government funding in order to do things. There's a requirement
that they file their income tax, and we see that.
I'm wondering if someone could comment on some of the
differences. This was going to be around reporting requirements for
the fact that individuals were getting...like if you were an engineer in
the engineering association. You were a professional. You were part
of the accounting association. You paid your annual dues to be a part
of that group, and you got a tax credit. That's the individual piece,
and then you participate in your association, and that kind of thing.
I'm interested in your general comments on the differences I feel
are going to be overly burdensome. That's a hard word late in the
day.
● (1705)
Mr. Blaine Langdon (Chief, Charities, Personal Income Tax
Division, Tax Policy Branch, Department of Finance): Maybe I'll
take that one.
You're right. In terms of registered charities, there is public
disclosure of the information. We saw a copy of the return here
earlier. It's a 10-page form that is available on the Canada Revenue
Agency's website. The reason registered charities are required to file
and have their information publicly posted is that there is an
enhanced public interest in knowing where donations go and
knowing which organizations the public wants to support. That's part
of the rationale.
In terms of the overall reporting requirements for registered
charities, there's a particular set of rules that registered charities have
to abide by in order to maintain their registered charity status. They
file that information, and the CRA uses that for the purposes of
determining whether or not they're complying with the rules.
March 21, 2016
HUMA-04
In terms of other types of organizations, there are a number of
different types of taxes and organizations. There are non-profit
organizations, labour organizations, and a variety of other exempt
organizations. Different reporting requirements apply to them
depending on what rules apply to them and on generally what
information the CRA needs in order to determine whether or not they
continue to qualify for the exemption or whether or not they're
meeting the particular rules.
With the exception of charities, and currently for labour
organizations and labour trusts, the information about those
organizations is not generally available to the public. As with other
taxpayers, be it an individual, a corporation, or a non-profit in the
sense of the true non-profit, that information is not disclosed to the
public. It wouldn't be available on the CRA's website or anything
like that.
Ms. Sheri Benson: Right. I guess what I'm trying to get at is there
are individuals who are part of an organization who are getting
similar benefits, but we're just talking about one organization among
those organizations that we're asking for a much larger reporting
requirement. Is that correct?
Mr. Blaine Langdon: I would agree with that.
Ms. Sheri Benson: Right, and it's a particular group. It's a labour
group.
Mr. Blaine Langdon: I would agree with that.
There are a number of different deductions that businesses are
entitled to take. Just to give a very basic comparison, labour
organization union dues are deductible. If you paid to be a member
of a professional organization, that would also be deductible.
Currently, only for labour organizations and registered charities is
the information publicly displayed.
Ms. Sheri Benson: Right, and there was another look at doing
that same thing around first nations government, around sort of
making an increase.... There's the assumption that somehow they're
not accountable. Being part of the charity movement, I'd say that
does come out when you start to do that, and I feel that part of this
piece was there to say that they're not accountable and that's why
we're doing more. That is the impression the public gets. I think
some of that is being shared around here, which is that somehow
union members don't have enough brain cells to be part of the union
and be part of a convention, but they get financial information, they
get to set the direction of their organization, and they get to set the
policies and all that kind of stuff.
I guess I'm making more of a comment.
Are there any other comments about the constitutionality of either
one of the bills and the problems they would cause both the
government and unions as far as that goes?
● (1710)
The Chair: Incredibly briefly, please.
Mr. Blaine Langdon: I won't comment extensively on constitutionality. I know that it was raised during the Senate hearings, and I
think before the House, but that's really up to the courts to decide.
The Chair: Thank you.
Mr. Long.
13
Mr. Wayne Long: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Welcome, everybody.
I want to drill down on a question that I actually asked the
minister.
I think I'll direct it to you, Mr. Dimitrakopoulos. Was my
pronunciation close there?
Mr. Costa Dimitrakopoulos (Director General, Legislative
Policy Directorate, Legislative Policy and Regulatory Affairs
Branch, Canada Revenue Agency): That was perfect.
Mr. Wayne Long: I'll get your comment or your opinion on this.
In 2012, the CRA was asked to provide the same information on
its employees that Bill C-377would require of labour unions. The
CRA's response was that they could not provide the information
because the Privacy Act precludes the CRA from disclosing personal
information about its employees.
Again—obviously, I wasn't in politics at that time—I found it
hypocritical that the Conservative Party was asking unions to
provide private information that their own agency, the CRA, refused
to provide because of privacy concerns. I want to get your comments
and opinion on that.
Mr. Costa Dimitrakopoulos: With Bill C-377, once it became
law, it was the power of Parliament and the will of Parliament that
that information be shared. The information that was requested of the
CRA in terms of the employees of the CRA was not something that
was the will of Parliament.
Mr. Wayne Long: In your opinion, will Bill C-4 have any
financial implications for the Canada Revenue Agency?
Mr. Costa Dimitrakopoulos: Bill C-4 would not have implications for the Canada Revenue Agency. The Bill C-377 aspect would
have had a financial burden of about $2 million annually. That would
be the cost.
Mr. Wayne Long: With respect to the requirements of reporting
for Bill C-377, could you share with us what areas beyond what is
asked of charities now, what additional requirements would unions
have had to comply with?
Mr. Blaine Langdon: I will take that question.
There are similarities in the categorization of reporting, but
generally speaking, registered charities report on expenditures in the
aggregate. The major difference between registered charity reporting
and the reporting required of labour organizations and labour trusts is
that they would be required to report specific transactions over
$5,000, itemized with the name of the payer and the payee. That's
one major difference, and if you actually go through the schedules,
there are a number of different categories that don't apply to
charities, but I would say the major difference is the amount of
information in terms of itemization.
Mr. Wayne Long: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The Chair: You're very welcome.
Thank you very much to the panel.
I do have to cut it off there. We have some committee business we
need to attend to.
14
Thank you again to our panel.
HUMA-04
[Proceedings continue in camera]
March 21, 2016
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