Robyn Benson, PSAC

This just in: Senate blocks anti-union bill

Senate of Canada.jpg

The Conservative-dominated Senate has just blocked C-377, passing amendments that will require this appalling bill to be sent back to the House of Commons, now in recess.

Hugh Segal is the hero of the hour. A Conservative Senator, he has stood up against this bill from the start. He proposed the amendments that passed by a vote of 49-33.

The amendments raise the reporting threshold for payments to $150,000 from $5,000. The reporting threshold for salaries is raised to $444,661 from $100,000.

The amendments also exempt union locals and unions with fewer than 50,000 members.

Clearly Senators had been listening to the parade of witnesses that told them the bill was unconstitutional, discriminatory, a violation of privacy laws, and just plain wrong. And a number of Conservatives in the Upper House successfully resisted government lobbying to vote with the majority.

The salary threshold figure indicates that humour is not dead in the Red Chamber. The now former Conservative MP Brent Rathgeber had proposed a private member’s bill that would have forced the government to disclose the salaries of all federal public sector managers earning more than $188,000. In a Conservative-dominated Committee, the majority voted to raise the amount to $444,661, prompting Rathgeber to quit the caucus in disgust.

Let me add a qualified mea culpa to this joyous news. A few days ago, in a very rare moment of pessimism brought on, perhaps, by the staggering number of fights we’re presently involved in, I ventured to suggest that we were going to lose this battle in the Senate.

Well, we didn’t exactly win it—killing the beast would have been far preferable to giving it a wash and brush up—but we didn’t lose it, either. The Senate vote means the bill will be put off until the Fall, when the House of Commons will vote on the amendments—or simply allow the bill to die.

We can always hope that the Harper Conservatives will tire of the game. The bill has been shredded by constitutional experts, the Privacy Commissioner, the Canadian Bar Association, and a host of other people and organizations who know whereof they speak. There’s not much support in the media, either, or elsewhere, except from rabidly anti-union pressure groups like Merit.

Is this a ditch the Conservatives really want to die in? The party ideologues, count on it, will be pushing hard to continue the fight, regardless of law, morality or justice. It’s how they roll. We won a battle, and good for all of us, including those Conservative Senators who proved they were able to think for themselves—but the Harper war on unions continues. We’ve just been granted a little breathing room. We’d better start using it.

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This page contains a single entry by Robyn Benson, PSAC published on June 26, 2013 4:43 PM.

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