Canada’s Building Trade Unions Support is Suspicious

Canada’s Building Trades Unions (BTU) came out publically the other day supporting the Government of Canada’s decision to allow the reversal of Enbridge Line 9 between Hamilton and Sarnia.  In their release, Director of Canadian Affairs, Robert Blakely, says that they work with energy producers on a daily basis to ensure that Canada’s energy projects “achieve all of their potential” and that “it’s refreshing to have a federal government that also grasps this economic reality.”  Blakley goes on to say that “with measures like an improved regulatory process, their commitment to apprenticeship and now this – the Harper Government is demonstrating its knowledge of, and commitment to, our industry.”

Taken at face value, such strong support of Prime Minister Harper’s Government and policies are no doubt helpful to the Prime Minister and to the energy industry as a whole.  Had the BTU sent this news release and focused only on the great nation building work of Prime Minister Harper, the BTU would have come across genuinely.

Instead they went on to express their concern about the “unintended, negative consequences of Bill C-377, which endangers the ability of Canadian workers to participate in large scale nation building energy and resource projects”

WHAT???  How??? Huh???

Bill C-377 is a federal Private Members Bill that would require unions to make public their finances, including assets, liabilities, expenses, and salaries of officials.  It’s a necessary piece of legislation in a world that is becoming increasingly open and transparent.

In his news release, Blakely goes as far as threatening that if Harper’s government moves forward with Bill C-377 it will “add considerable costs to the bottom line of large-scale energy projects” while at the same time stating the legislation would actually “duplicate processes that are already in place to provide accountability and transparency”.

If unions already have systems in place to provide accountability and transparency then they will be able to comply with Bill C-377 with little or no additional cost.  You can’t say on the one hand that you already provide full financial disclosure to members and on the other that it would cost you a fortune to provide public financial disclosure.  There is no logic to that argument.  It simply doesn’t make sense.  We know, for example, that when the US brought in union disclosure legislation the cost of compliance to unions was nominal.

Blakely also states that building trade unions are private sector unions and that “unlike charities and political parties, they (we) receive no public sector subsidies”.  The fact of the matter is, however, that unions enjoy special status under our tax laws and receive approximately $400 million worth of tax benefits every year.  Furthermore, union dues are mandatory which means that unions effectively have the ability to tax their members without any requirements to be transparent or accountable.

When Bill C-377 was first introduced, Blakely and friends complained that the Harper Government was unfairly targeting unions with this legislation.  Given that the government has required charities and first nations governments to be more transparent, these arguments have fallen on deaf ears.  Their new argument that they receive no public subsidies is also full of holes given their unique tax status and the mandatory nature of union dues collection.

Canada is far behind many other developed countries when it comes to both union financial disclosure and the ability of workers to opt out of all of some of their union dues.  Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, Ireland, the U.K. and the U.S. all have some form of union financial disclosure.  Furthermore, in Canada MPs, Senators, Minister’s offices, provincial politicians and their staff, federal and provincial departments, First Nations Governments, charities and foundations, crown corporations and publically traded companies are all subject to some form of financial disclosure and transparency requirements.

So why are the building trade unions essentially threatening large scale industrial project cost escalation and an endangerment of the “ability of Canadian workers to participate in large-scale nation building energy and resource projects”?

What do big union bosses REALLY have to hide??

Until unions are subject to financial disclosure legislation, we will never really know.

What we do know is that the USA has had union financial disclosure legislation in place since 1959 and it has led to thousands of fraud convictions.  In fact, from 2001-2008, the US labor department secured more than 1,000 union fraud-related indictments and 929 convictions.

We also know that several unions provide funding and support to oil sands opponents, such as the Sierra Club (CAW, Nova Scotia Nurses Union), Environmental Defence (United Steelworkers), Parkland Institute (Canadian Union of Public Employees), the Rideau Institute (CUPE), the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CUPE, CEP), the David Suzuki Foundation (B.C. Teacher’s Federation) and the Council of Canadians (CUPE, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Hospital Employees’ Union, Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, Confederation of Canadian Unions, Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, CAW, Pulp and Paper and Woodworkers of Canada, COPE, B.C. Teachers’ Federation, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers).  But we often only know about this funding because the recipients, not the unions, report it.

Over the summer, one Federal MP told me that she has never been lobbied as much as she is being lobbied by organized labour against Bill C-377.  Clearly, organized labour has chosen union financial disclosure as their preverbal hill to die on.

One has to wonder why …

It’s great that the Building Trade Unions support Prime Minister Harper’s direction on energy development and its great they believe he is moving forward with great nation building policies.  I support Prime Minister Harper’s approach as well and so does the open shop construction community, which actually represents the vast majority of construction workers in Canada.

But to tie the issues of energy development and union financial disclosure together in the same media release is dishonest and, quite frankly, embarrassing.

Canadian unions should embrace financial disclosure requirements.  And they shouldn’t tie their support for energy development to the desire of Canadians to have greater union financial transparency.

Oh ya …. I forgot to mention that Canadians support Bill C-377 – in fact, more union members want increase union financial disclosure than non-members ….

But I thought that unions already disclosed all of their finances to their members?

Right … they really don’t.


My Twitter Personality: Seven goes to One

This blog is about one of my favorite books, The Wisdom of the Enneagram, which is both accurate and fascinating in its analysis of personalities.  The book is based on the premise that there are nine (9) basic personality types, and understanding your “type” is the first step towards psychological and spiritual growth.  It is written by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson – I recommend picking it up; it will help you grow and better understand your parents, children, siblings, co-workers, friends and maybe even fellow tweeps.

Last night as @crontynen and I were playing a game of Rummy and chatting about life, politics, friends and family, I had a eureka moment regarding my personality in real life versus my personality on Twitter.   I think it would be a fascinating social experiment to study how people act face to face versus on twitter and I’m confident The Wisdom of the Enneragram would end up as the text book.

My personality type is number seven (7), which is called the “Enthusiast”. Words that describe an Enthusiast at the beginning of that chapter include: The Generalist; The Multi-tasker; The Wunderkind; The Dilettante; The Connoisseur; and the Energizer.  Generally speaking, the seven is described as the busy, fun-loving type:  spontaneous, versatile, acquisitive and scattered.  I’m confident that anyone who knows me would use one of more of these words to describe me.  There is no doubt in my mind that I exhibit the characteristics of a strong #7 personality type.

But on Twitter I’m somebody different and thanks to my eureka moment last night, I now know why – Twitter brings out the worst in me!    The book talks about how people’s personality types manifest themselves in different situations.  The language used refers to healthy and unhealthy psychological ranges.  When a seven gets stressed or falls into an unhealthy range, certain personality patterns from type one (1) start to emerge.  Here is what the book says about the seven going to a one, or My Twitter Personality.

Like average Ones, Sevens under stress attempt to educate others – whether about an exciting book or workshop, a good place to shop, or a particular political or spiritual viewpoint.  Their enthusiasm for their own opinions can rapidly shift into a tendency to debate or critique the views of others.  They can become “short”, impersonal, and highly impatient with any degree of incompetence in themselves or others.  Under high stress, their underlying anger and resentment bubble to the surface, and they vent their frustration by scolding, nitpicking, and delivering withering sarcastic comments.

Yup, that’s me on Twitter!

The path towards personal and spiritual growth begins with self-reflection, awareness and understanding.  I encourage you to pick up a copy of The Wisdom of the Enneagram over the holidays and learn a little bit more about yourself.

Let me know when you do – I would love to learn a little more about you too!


The Trouble with Twibbons

Last Saturday night was like any other for P&C. We got home, retired to the kitchen table and started talking about the PC party over a game of cards. Don’t worry we talked about other things too – but our conversation ended with musing about the party and the “trouble” each of us had caused on twitter earlier in the week.

We get crazy ideas when it comes to twitter and politics – especially on Saturday nights at the kitchen table after a few vodka sodas.

Our latest idea? The #pcaa twibbon!

It was harder than it looked – we quickly realized we were not graphic designers. Big thanks to @MinisterJono and @MLATedMorton for coming out supporting the twibbon right away … loved Fake Ted’s comment that we had to figure out the program so the twibbon wasn’t covering his gorgeous face. We agreed … we happen to want to show off our own mugs too.

Thank goodness @tjamesclement came home shortly after … he essentially worked all night and all morning to get something up that didn’t cover up a standard profile picture.

Now we are asking for your help. Support #pcaa – and support us. Can you do better? That was almost rhetorical. We will keep you posted on our progress and can’t wait until we are all sporting shiny #pcaa twibbons.

In the mean time let’s get this one up and start collaborating on how to improve it.

Let’s show our PC colours on Twitter & let’s start engaging!