Tories defend former MP Hiebert’s bill

South Surrey-White Rock Conservative MP Dianne Watts says controversial bills C-377 and C-525 are not anti-labour legislation

South Surrey-White Rock Conservative MP Dianne Watts said she has “no knowledge of what the Senate is planning on doing” about the potential repeal of controversial labour bills C-377 and C-525.

Conservatives in the Senate – where they have a majority – have said they will do everything in their power to block legislation to repeal the laws, announced late last month by the federal Liberals.

Watts, who has previously said she has no specific concerns about reporting of union financial information to CRA – the crux for supporters of C-377 – said, however, she does not consider either bill to be anti-labour.

The Liberals have long promised to repeal the bills – branded ‘union-busting’ by opponents – both of which were passed in the waning days of Stephen Harper’s Conservative government.

Bill C-377, a private member’s bill presented and championed by former South Surrey-Cloverdale-White Rock Conservative MP Russ Hiebert, would require unions to publicly report salaries and any expenses over $5,000, estimate how much they spent on political activities and provide details of those from whom they purchased goods and services – requirements opponents have said are designed to tie unions up in red tape and which would be liable to legal and constitutional challenge.

C-525 would remove automatic certification for workers in federally regulated business sectors where more than 50 per cent of employees signed a union card – which opponents claim will make it more difficult for workers to organize, and much easier to decertify a union.

Watts said in November that she was not surprised the Liberals were planning to repeal her predecessor’s bill, which had been among their campaign promises, and she said she had no specific concerns about the reporting of union information.

“I think there are measures in place currently that address that issue,” she said at that time.

Responding to Peace Arch News’ request for comment on last month’s announcement, Watts emailed from the House of Commons that while she was not aware of what Senate Conservatives would do to block repeal of the bills, she was adamant that “these are not anti-union bills.”

“One gives the union membership the democratic right to vote by secret ballot. The second is around disclosure of the union executive to report publicly to their membership on expenditures. Some unions have this in place now and others do not.”

Watts echoed Hiebert’s longtime argument that his bill “puts unions in the same reporting category of non- profits or any other organization that receives tax credits from the federal government.”

Hiebert declined a PAN request for comment in November, when the Liberals announced that they were beginning the process of repeal of C-377.

At that time, a representative of Hiebert deferred comment to John Mortimer, president of LabourWatch, an anti-union group that critics of his bill have said was among those who contributed to drafting and lobbying for the legislation.

Mortimer suggested moves to dismantle C-377 were part of the current government’s commitment to unions in response to their financial support for the Liberals during last year’s election campaign.

 

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