Union accountability bill raises ‘serious' privacy concerns: Privacy commissioner

Private members’ bill would require unions to disclose salaries, how dues are spent

Critics of a private member’s bill that will require more accountability from Canada’s unions say the bill will raise privacy issues.

Conservative MP Russ Hiebert’s bill, dubbed bill C-377, would amend the Income Tax Act, forcing unions to disclose how money is being spent, including the amounts of representatives’ salaries.

Federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart told the House finance committee on Wednesday despite proposed amendments, the bill “is a significant privacy intrusion and it seems highly disproportionate."

"It is not clear the names, the salaries and the disbursements above $5,000 in respect of all labour organization employees and contractors need to be publicly disclosed to achieve this more limited objective (of more transparency)," she added.

Opposing MPs called the bill a “bureaucratic monster” and voiced concerns that it could raise costs of union-offered benefit and pension plans.

Terrance Oakey of Merit Canada, a lobby organization for open-shop construction associations, told the Sault Star unions, which enjoy various tax breaks, need to be made more accountable for the benefit of taxpayers and union members.

“The workers forced to make these contributions deserve to know how their money is being spent," he said. "So do members of the general public who subsidize this revenue through the tax system."

The bill is currently being considered before it goes back to the House of Commons for a third reading.

Despite the criticism, Hiebert has backed the bill, saying it is pro-union as it makes union spending transparent and available to members and taxpayers.

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