Policy Commentary

Bill C-377 Mistakes Accounting for Accountability

ACFO takes pride in the open and transparent manner in which it holds itself accountable to its membership.

Like any organization, unions have a responsibility to be accountable to their members, and ACFO takes this responsibility seriously. The Association produces audited financial reports on a timely basis, and responds to question from members in public at our annual general meeting (AGM) or privately any time.

In fact, ACFO held its AGM recently, where members democratically elected leadership to manage resources on their behalf, had their say in how those resources should be managed, and voted on rules governing how the Association operates.

To insinuate that Canadian unions are not accountable or transparent, and must be federally policed is simply not the case. Yet this is the argument Conservative MP Russ Hiebert has used to justify pushing private members’ Bill C-377 through Parliament.

This Bill will have a significant negative impact on all labour organizations in Canada by requiring unions to duplicate mandatory financial information submitted to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and to follow rules for financial disclosure that are more onerous, costly and time consuming.

But revealing this accounting data cannot and does not lead to increased accountability. It merely takes away resources by forcing unions to go through a cumbersome and unnecessary accounting process. It will create a mountain of bureaucracy at exorbitant cost to both unions and taxpayers that does not further the goals of the proposed legislation. The CRA estimates Bill C-377 will cost more than $20 million to establish and nearly $4 million every year to operate.

It is important to note that the current scope of the Bill only applies to unions. Because union members can deduct their dues from their taxable income, the Bill demands that activities those dues fund be subject to public scrutiny.

The narrow coverage of the Bill begs the question as to why disclosure requirements on unions should be greater and more invasive than other institutions and organizations in Canada. One must wonder why other corporations that receive tax benefits, registered charities, political parties, and professional associations are exempt.

In fact, Government and members of Parliament themselves do not provide such level of disclosure.

The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) has explained that “the Bill lacks an appropriate balance between any legitimate public goals and respect for the privacy interests protected by law,” and “interferes with the internal administration and operations of a union, which the constitutionally protected freedom of association precludes.”

Under the guise of transparency and accountability, supporters of this Bill have created a tool that specifically aims to weaken political opponents in labour unions. In reality, this Bill will not improve accountability among private associations. What it will do, however, is increase the costs of running your government and your union, and infringe on your constitutionally protected rights to freedoms of expression and association.

ACFO has submitted its position on Bill C-377 to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. The Association is asking you for your support in confronting this piece of legislation by signing this petition and holding your elected MP as accountable as you hold your union.

2012-12-17T00:00:00

 

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