Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Mailing from Rick Dykstra- On Bill C-377

Today I received a mailing from my MP Rick Dykstra letting me know how happy he was at the passage of Bill C-377. The mailing comes with the usual Orwellian title, "Transparency For Workers", that seems ever present, whether it be business or politics. The Private members bill was promoted as legislation to safeguard the worker and their union contributions and asserts the right to legislate based on the tax deductible nature of union dues. My earlier comments of C-377 can be found here. To summarize this bill requires a labour organisation to public disclose financial and other information. It should be noted that union members already have access to this information. Public disclosure will come at an increase cost; imposing a burden on the union operation. The result is money spent on red tape isn't spent promoting union interests and therefore their members interests. Win win for conservatives.

The Conservative Party of Canada of which Rick Dykstar is a member has a spotty record with labour. They routinely declare economic necessity, ordering striking workers back to work. Have allowed companies to bring in foreign workers, which I have no problem with unless they are paid much less or are hired over qualified Canadian workers. Dykstra represents a riding with a history of unionisation. So he has to present his vote in a positive light, a vote in favour of legislation that Unions describe as an anti union .

I quote:
"...Bill C-377 an(sic) law that will help ensure that unions use funds from their members effectively."

Since members already have access to information on union expenditures, it is hard for me to see how       C-377 does this. What it does do is make publicly available such information; useful I'm sure to media outlets and public policy associations. Dykstra goes onto say this bill makes union disclosures comparable to " ...a public summary of financial data much like (emphasis added) Canadian  charities already do." "Much like" is not the same as "just like" it is not reasonable to compare what are essentially different organisations. A better comparison might be to corporation.

He goes on to say that 

"Union disclosure is in place in other countries like Great Britain, France, Germany, Australia and the untied States. In fact, many Canadian Unions, like the United Steelworkers of Canada, have been reporting this information to the public under the 1959 American law."

I guess the take away is that our law is no different from what is practised in other countries, so there. A quick google search didn't find any links Germany labour legislation, it was a quick search, but I did find this, a HuffPo article written by Terrance Oakey; where similar points are made. The title of that piece,"What union leaders aren't telling you about Bill C-377". Mr. Oakey is part of a group called Merit Canada. Merit Canada is a group formed to challenge Quebec's closed shop construction industry. 

I quote,
"I am glad that we were able to successfully change the legislation to better protect the privacy of individual workers. Because of those changes, I was able to support the bill."

What he refers to is the amendment that changes certain disclosures from a minimum of $5000 to $100000 dollars in order to meet a privacy concern. Though there are still concerns it is not enough. It is good that Dykstra's concern over the privacy of workers was allayed to the extent, that he could now comfortably vote for an anti-union bill.

We also have a photo of Dykstra meeting with union reps. There is no link to the content of what they may have discussed, but we are assured by Dykstra that  he "... made sure the final bill addressed concerns they raised about privacy rights." This is in reference to the amendments made to the bill. Should I presume then, that these union reps were thus happy with everything else? We may only guess.

This mailing ends with a "share your thoughts" survey. 

1. Should workers be able to know how unions are spending their money? Yes - No

Well there was know space for " they already do". I'll say Yes because saying No doesn't seem like a real option.

2. Do you agree that privacy of ordinary workers should be protected? Yes - No

Why yes I do, but the wording does seem to leave open the option of violating the privacy of extraordinary workers; an oversight for sure.

3. Is Rick Dykstra on the right track? Yes - No

I guess that depends on whether you think complete support and  loyalty to Conservative Party of Canada is "on the right track. "

I'd like to think that we do legislate best practices, that we will go and see how other countries do it and take the best back to our country. Germany has a strong union movement and a Huge manufacturing presence, worth emulating. On the other hand the United States has a union movement under attack and the commensurate decline in labour rights. In fact Tim Hudak, leader of the Progressive Conservatives of Ontario has declared his desire to imitate other American  anti-union legislation like "Right to Work".  I would say that some labour models are better than other. It just depends on the colour of your collar.

I don't believe there are many or perhaps any institutions that can't benefit from a bit of look over. Things change over time; and we must take hard looks at our institutions and see if they are in need of reform. It is natural and necessary, what I oppose is the insinuation of ideology in the process, and its tendency damage, not make better or way of life.

Mayor Ford-Left and Right

Mayor Ford having just been acquitted on appeal in his conflict of interest case, faces his  next legal challenge; election overspending.  The allegations are for election overspending; illegal loans and generous loan terms, in violation of the Municipal Elections Act. To date Mayor Ford has faced a defamation case and conflict of interest case, both decided in his favour.

Contravening the election spending guidelines Municipal Election Act carries with it the maximum penalty of removal from office and prison. But it appears that few are ever convicted under the Act and none removed from office. There is more leeway in handling those found in contravention of the Act.

I won't deny that Rob Ford doesn't receive attention from the Left. He is not the ideal version of the "Mayor of Canada's Largest City". He seems under qualified for the job by most measures like education and depth of vision. But he won the election and most conservatives love him, because he embodies there own thought and feelings on a vast array of subjects. He is like them. Rob Ford supporters see their man attacked and so perhaps themselves through him. It may be understandable then, if they think the "left" is out to get him and by extension them.

Conservatives claim that Rob Ford faces unrelenting acts from a "Left-Wing Cabal" whose purpose is the over throw of the Democratic Order and the removal of their duly elected leader from office; by fair means or foul. There might be some hyperbole in that last sentence, or there might not. The Ford Brothers on their  News Talk 1010 show seem to think so. Listeners of their show will walk away with the notion that left-wing political activists, liberals, unionist and other conservative bogeymen are pursuing Mayor Ford with the intent to disrupt his term of office.

Can such a complaint be entertained? Maybe, followed by, but what does that really mean. I'd say that Ford is heavily scrutinized by the electorate and the press. Every wrong word or deed makes it onto the front page, print and online, blogs, comment section; conservative,liberal or left. Whether they merit such a placement is the only question that can be reasonably asked.

Rob Ford was taken to court for allegedly defaming someone; he was found not guilty. He was taken to court for conflict of interest violations; he was found not guilty. To some on the right they appeared manufactured; seemingly to cause trouble to Rob Ford. The evidence for such a conclusion? He won both cases. The notion that winning meant  that the cases lacked merit is astonishing to me. We rely on the expert opinion like that of a Judge; to assess guilt or innocence, rather than public opinion for a reason. It was this process that found Rob Ford not guilty and it had to run its course. Had the cases been frivolous, I trust that they would have been dismissed.

I also find the charge that Ford is being targeted as an oversimplification. Rob Ford said the words that lead to the dis-proven charge of defamation. Rob Ford solicited money for his foundation that lead to a vote that resulted in conflict of interest charges being laid against him, that he also won. Certainly the Left took some pleasure and advantage in the Mayor's folly, but it was his follies. Where often you hear conservatives talk of personal responsibly, the silence following Ford was deafening or even worse in my opinion, the excuse making. I get the feeling that Rob Ford as the embodiment of conservative hopes and dreams must be defended even as it compromises certain right wing values. People should be held accountable for their actions. That is what we have Courts for.

On election spending irregularities, the audit says Rob Ford did that too. The proper course of action is to have Ford answer to the allegations and let due process sort out fact from fiction and the proper penalty be assessed.

Whatever else comes of Rob Ford's term in office I hope it has stoked Torontonians to greater political involvement.