Robyn Benson, PSAC

A government without rules

red chamber.jpg

Bill C-377 has been passed by the Senate. If you aren’t upset, you ought to be.

Readers might remember when it was first introduced in the House of Commons back in 2012. The Bill specifically targets unions, forcing them to disclose more detailed internal information than any other institution in Canada—banks and corporations and employers’ associations, for example. The level of disclosure demanded by this Bill violates the privacy of millions of Canadians, not just union members. It leaves unions at a significant strategic disadvantage when dealing with employers. And it also requires them to generate a mountain of costly paperwork to make public all of the detailed information the Bill demands.

Its intent is obvious. Even the media are calling it an “anti-union Bill.” And so it is.

C-377 sailed through the Conservative-dominated House of Commons in 2013, but it ran into unexpected opposition in the Senate. A number of Conservative Senators—one third of the caucus!—joined with Liberal Senators to gut the Bill, which was then sent back to the House of Commons in tatters.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Commons. Stephen Harper prorogued Parliament, which, under the rules, means that the Bill never actually left the Senate. And so, a few months ago, it rose from the dead—in its original, unamended form.

In 2013, Conservative Senator Hugh Segal led the charge against the Bill. But this second time around he was enjoying his retirement, along with eight other supportive Senators, the Prime Minister’s Office cracked the whip, and that was that.

The Bill is blatantly unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court will mow it down as surely they have done with a string of other pieces of legislation that Harper has tried to force on Canadians. But there’s a wider issue here, and it’s one that should concern all citizens.

In order to ram the legislation through, the Conservative-dominated Senate changed its own rules in the middle of the game, overruling its own Speaker (a Conservative). The consequences of this move are very serious. No government should be able to get away with this. It means, in effect, that there are no rules when the Conservatives have a majority. If the ones in place aren’t working for them, they’ll just make up new ones on the spot.

This is not the way a democracy is supposed to work. But the Harper government has never cared very much about democracy, or the rule of law either. What other government would appoint Dean Del Mastro to oversee government ethics, a man who was literally led away in chains last week for corrupt electoral practices? Or fraudster Arthur Porter, now in jail in Panama? Harper appointed him to run the Security Intelligence Review Committee, supposedly in place to keep the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) on the straight and narrow. And then, of course, there are those Harper-appointed Senators, two of them charged with sex offences, while others are facing trial or criminal investigation for lavishing large amounts of taxpayers’ money on themselves.

The stench of moral and political corruption hangs heavy over Canada, like a cloud. The federal election is in less than four months, on October 19. Do I really need to draw a picture here?

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This page contains a single entry by Robyn Benson, PSAC published on June 30, 2015 7:16 PM.

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