Bill C-4: Rebalancing labour relations in Canada
This bill follows through on the Government's clear election promise to repeal two labour bills.
Bill C-4 proposed to enact the Government’s clear election commitment to Canadians to repeal private members’ bills C-377 and C-525, and restore balance in Canada’s collective bargaining regime. Bill C-377 required labour organizations and labour trusts to file detailed and onerous information returns for public disclosure, or face financial penalties. Several provinces argued the legislation was unconstitutional as it encroached on their jurisdiction over labour issues. Bill C-525 made it more difficult to certify — and easier to decertify — a union by replacing the card check system with a mandatory secret ballot system. Both C-377 and C-525 were originally passed without tripartite consultations between unions, employers and government.
The Senate’s Role
Bill C-4 was introduced in the Senate on October 20, 2016 after being adopted in the House of Commons. Following several months of consideration, the Senate voted 43-34 on April 11, 2017 to amend the bill to retain the secret ballot vote system. The House of Commons disagreed with the amendment and returned a message to the Senate to that effect. The Senate did not insist on its amendment and concurred with the message from the House.
Bill C-4 received Royal Assent on June 19, 2017. “I am delighted that my Senate colleagues have listened to the will of Canadians. This legislation restores the balance between labour and management,” said Senator Diane Bellemare, the sponsor of the bill in the Senate. Senator Peter Harder, the Government Representative in the Senate, added that it has been a longstanding historical practice for the Senate to defer to the House of Commons when it comes to election promises. “The Senate’s role is to be a complementary chamber of sober second thought — not a rival to Parliament’s elected chamber,” Senator Harder said. “Canadians expect us to be deferential to the women and men they chose to empower through the ballot box.”