OTTAWA -- Manitoba unions are bracing for legislation to be passed today that would force them to publicize detailed financial information.
Conservative MP Russ Hiebert introduced the private member's bill a year ago. It would require unions to submit detailed financial reports -- including salaries and information on activities such as organizing, political lobbying and negotiating with employers -- to the Canada Revenue Agency. The reports would be posted online.
Hiebert said the law mimics those on the books in the U.S. and Britain.
He argues taxpayers lose out on $500 million a year from tax rebates collected by individuals who pay union dues, and that gives taxpayers the right to see unions' finances much like they do charities, where individual contributors also receive a tax credit.
He also said it's in keeping with the same reporting requirements the government demands of government departments and First Nations.
"This will improve confidence Canadians will have in labour organizations," Hiebert said.
Kevin Rebeck, president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour, said the Harper government is undermining unions. "It's nothing but an attack on unions," he said. "They are solving a problem that doesn't exist."
Rebeck said a Manitoba Conservative MP told him the bill is targeting unions for donating to organizations such as Greenpeace, which the Tories oppose.
He said the MP told him there is no problem with unions donating money to a local food bank but Greenpeace is another story. The bill would require unions to report which organizations they support.
David Jacks of CUPE Manitoba said unions already ensure members can see financial information and members get to vote on most decisions about union activities and operations.
The CRA has estimated it will cost about $2.4 million to implement the bill, and another $800,000 and eight full-time employees to maintain it. Those figures are based on 1,000 unions reporting information. If locals have to also submit the reports, the CRA said the cost will be much higher.