I am so stoked. In a couple of weeks the next season of my favourite television show, The Walking Dead, will begin.
It really is a fantastic show with great writing that allows for compelling explorations of ethical dilemmas and fundamental human struggles. And did I mention there are zombies!
I have to admit that I get a real kick out of it when one of our underdog heroes spears a sharp blade through one of the evil, mindless shells of a being that has rerisen from the dead.
Hey, speaking of evil, mindless zombies that have risen from the dead, Bill C-377 is back.
You may recall that Bill C-377 is the thinly disguised attack on labour put forward as a federal private members’ bill by Conservative MP Russ Hiebert. The bill proposes to significantly erode the strategic interests of unions and their members by requiring the public disclosure of expenses and salaries paid by labour organizations and their subsidiaries. The bill proposes to provide transparency to the public, who is apparently deserving of it because union dues are tax deductible.
While overlooking the fact that a union’s duty to report on finances is owed to its members, not to the public, the bill creates double standards by proposing rules that are dramatically different for unions than for other groups. For instance, charities get tax deductible donations but provide only top level or cursory reporting. Then there are private corporations that routinely deduct expensive dinners, retreats and junkets as business expenses without providing any public disclosure at all.
Interestingly, the bill also proposes much more stringent disclosure thresholds for union-paid salaries than it does for taxpayer-paid salaries for top-level bureaucrats and political staffers in the prime minister’s office.
Last spring, Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber quit the Conservative caucus because a committee dominated by his own party amended his private members’ bill by raising the minimum threshold for public employee salary disclosures from $180,000 to more than $444,000. This meant that most senior bureaucrat positions would become exempt from the disclosure laws.
The senate was considering Bill C-377 at the same time as the Conservatives amended Rathgeber’s bill to shield top advisors in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office. A number of Conservative senators, led by Ontario Senator Hugh Segal, offered some sober second thought and rightfully determined that the threshold for public servant salary disclosures should be the same as those being required for public disclosure by unions. They passed a number of amendments to C-377, which would ultimately send it to the same legislative purgatory that doomed Rathgeber’s bill.
Then Harper prorogued Parliament. While prorogation killed the bill for bureaucrats outright, it brought the union bill back from the dead.
Like some sort of unexplained disease affecting our dearly departed, obscure parliamentary rules meant that Bill C-377 returned to first reading stage in the Senate in the same form that it was previously passed by the House of Commons — without the 2013 senate amendments.
And, unfortunately, our hero Hugh Segal, like Walking Dead’s beloved elder statesman Hershel, is no longer with us. (Actually, he resigned instead of being beheaded by roving thugs.)
We need a new hero to lead the charge against this poorly crafted and mean-spirited attack on organized workers. And one of Alberta’s elected Conservative senators may be right for the job. Betty Unger, for instance, saw the issue clearly in 2013 and supported the amendments made by Segal. Unger, Doug Black and Scott Tannas were elected by Albertans and owe more to Alberta electors than they do to Prime Minister Harper, and so they should be receptive to calls from voters.
Their contact information is listed at http://bit.ly/C377senators. I encourage you to give them a call. ❚
I welcome your comments—contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.