senatJennifer Smith
Professor Emeritus
Dalhousie University

October 2013

In the summer of 2013, mounting opposition to Bill C-377 in the Senate stalled the progress of its passage. The bill is designed to compel labour unions to disclose to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) a detailed statement of their finances on an ongoing basis. In turn, the agency would be expected to post the material online, thereby making it available to the public.

This development brings the inadequacies of the NDP’s position on the Senate – the party seeks to abolish the institution – into the clear light of day. The reasons are obvious. First, in its role as the official opposition party in the House of Commons, the NDP was unable to muster the slightest impact on the bill’s merry passage. In the Senate, by contrast, the senators opposed to the bill managed at least to slow its approval there, by demanding hearings on it and by getting amendments made to it, thereby necessitating that the amended bill be sent back to the House for further consideration. Second, without the opposition in the Senate, most Canadians would have no idea about the very existence of the bill, let alone its ramifications for unions across the country.

What makes the situation awkward for the NDP is that Bill C-377 is not just any old bill. Whatever its merits as a transparency measure, which the government alleges it to be, in fact it is bound to weaken unions by entangling them (and the CRA, for that matter) in expensive and time-consuming red tape. Yet the NDP is a strong supporter of unions and in turn is supported by them. Bill C-377 not only demonstrates the need of the second chamber in the Canadian Parliament, it shows how foolhardy is the NDP’s pursuit of the abolition of the Senate. That the party’s position of abolition is illogical, as well, is the argument made in the remainder of the article.

Pour le NPD, l’inconfort de la situation vient de ce que le projet de loi C-377 n’est pas comme les autres. Le gouvernement prétend qu’il s’agit d’une mesure de transparence, Or, quels que soient ses mérites à cet égard, le projet de loi ne peut en fait qu’affaiblir les syndicats en les ensevelissant, et l’Agence du revenu à leur suite, sous une bureaucratie coûteuse et chronophage. Pourtant, le NPD est un fier défenseur des syndicats, qui le lui rendent bien. Le projet de loi C-377 démontre non seulement la nécessité d’une deuxième chambre au Parlement canadien, mais il prouve aussi combien le NPD fait preuve d’inconscience en demandant l’abolition du Sénat. Dans l’article qui suit, nous tenterons également de démontrer que la position abolitionniste du parti est illogique.

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