There’s a well-known adage in labour law circles that politically driven, ideological legal reforms that sway too far from the established centre, too far in favour or against collective bargaining, will have a short shelf life.
Inevitably, when a new political party comes to power, the pendulum will swing back.
Sustainable labour law reform is preceded by a thoughtful, well-researched process designed to respond to real economic and justice concerns, as well as non-partisan participation by key industrial relations actors that leads to reforms that are respected (not necessary liked in all regards) by employers and unions alike. The Ontario Liberals attempted to go this route when they appointed senior, highly respected representatives of both the union and management bar to lead their Changing Workplaces Review.
The Harper Conservatives’ open disdain for unions and unionized workers made this sort of balanced reform impossible during their rein in power in Ottawa. Their very transparent agenda was to undermine unions, which they perceived as a political foe and thorn in their side.
Bye, Bye C-377, An Act to Make Unions Produce and Disclose Reams of Useless Information
And so it comes as no surprise that the federal Liberal’s Bill C-4 has almost made its way through Parliament. Today is past through the Senate. Bill C-4 will repeal the highly controversial, partisan and transparent attempt by the former Conservative government to single out a political foe, unions, for special negative treatment under the Income Tax Act. Regular readers of this little law blog recall several posts about Bill C-377 back in 2013, including this one quoting a classic tirade against the partisan nature of the Bill by (now former) Senator Hugh Segal.
Bill C-377 buried unions, and only unions, in piles of red tape by requiring them to annual submit to the government reams of information about how they spend money and what employees do at work. Look at Section 149.1 (3) of the current Income Tax Act to see what information the Conservative’s made unions — and only unions — disclose to the public. Bill C-4 simply repeals that section.
Welcome Back Card-Check Union Certification
Bill C-4 also re-introduces the card-check model of union certification that had been in effect in the Canada Labour Code for some 50 odd years until the Harper government. The Conservative’s introduced mandatory union certification ballots, as provincial Conservative governments have tended to do whenever they are in power in Canada over the past 25 years. Studies demonstrate that unions have a more difficult time organizing new workers under the mandatory vote model than under the card-check model.
With Bill C-4’s return to card-check, I will need to once again amend Table 39.1 (Table 8.1 if you are using only the Collective Bargaining Regime edition) in The Law of Work. Once Bill C-4 comes into effect, 6 out of 11 Canadian jurisdictions will have some form of card-check union certification in effect, as shown in the Figure (Source: D. Doorey, The Law of Work: Complete Edition, p. 535).
That’s one of the great things about studying work law. There is always change.
Keeps us text book writers on our feet.