Bill C-377: Conservative Senators ignore Parliamentary procedure to force a vote on controversial union financial disclosure

Jul 03, 2015

First it was freedom of association that was the subject of attack by this government, now it is the authority of the Speaker of the Senate that is being cast aside.  If nothing else, this undermines the democratic process and makes a mockery of a legitimate filibuster process in relation to the controversial union financial disclosure bill C-377.

The latest development happened on the floor of the Senate at the end of June (the Senate sat until June 30th even though the House of Commons had risen the week before).

Despite being a private member’s bill, where filibusters are allowed according to long-standing Senate rules, Conservative senators ignored this rule and imposed a vote on C-377.   Senate rules allow the government to limit debate only on government business, not on private member’s bills such as C-377.  In short, Conservatives changed the rules to suit the needs of this government.   Conservatives even overruled the Senate speaker, Conservative Senator Leo Housakos, who called on his colleagues to follow the rules and not force a vote.

After much controversy and media coverage, and to our general astonishment, the forced vote went ahead and C-377 was passed on June 30, 2015.

There has been overwhelming opposition to Bill C-377, including from the Canadian Bar Association.  Many other associations, legal experts and even the National Hockey League Players’ Association also expressed opposition to C-377.

We agree with opponents to the bill such as the Canadian Bar Association, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and various provincial governments, that C-377 is unconstitutional .  We are of the view that this bill infringes the Constitution Act, 1867 on the basis that the very pith and substance of the bill, i.e. governing labour union activities, falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the provinces.  During the Senate Legal and Constitutional committee session, we argued that in addition to the constitutional questions, disclosure obligations contained in the bill would result in the violation of privacy rights and solicitor-client privilege.

There are of course other serious difficulties with the bill, including the unbudgeted and undisclosed costs related to the Canadian Revenue Agency’s oversight and implementation of Bill C-377, none of which have been made known to the general public.

As reported previously, Bill C-377 will:

Bargaining agents remain resolute in their opposition to the bill and will be pursuing legal avenues to challenge this bill in due course.

For members wishing to access the AJC’s financials, you may log in to our membership only website.  These materials are made public to all Regular Members and Associate Members in good standing.


Your AJC President,
Len MacKay