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Lobbying pays off for open shop construction contractors in Ottawa: Merit Canada chairman Monsebroten

Greg Meckbach
Lobbying pays off for open shop construction contractors in Ottawa: Merit Canada chairman Monsebroten

Curtis Monsebroten, who has been chairman of Merit Canada since March, addressed the seventh annual International Open Shop Conference (IOSC7) at the Ottawa Westin hotel. He praised the federal government for proposing the repeal of the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act and for Bill C-377, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (labour organizations), which would require unions and other labour organizations to publish financial statements.

 

Merit Canada has had “remarkable success” in lobbying federal Conservative politicians on matters of interest to open shop construction contractors, says Curtis Monsebroten, who has been chairman of Merit Canada since March.

“Merit Canada made the leap into the big leagues almost exactly a year ago with the establishment of our permanent office here in Ottawa in June, 2011 and the appointment of Terrance Oakey as our new president,” Monsebroten said Saturday during the seventh annual International Open Shop Conference (IOSC7) at the Ottawa Westin hotel. “The formation of Merit Canada came out of the realization that a national voice was required in order to advocate for our sector, which had too long been ignored by federal legislators in favour of the narrow interests of organized labour.”

Monsebroten made his remarks while introducing Michel Kelly-Gagnon, President and CEO of the Montreal Economic Institute, who delivered a breakfast presentation on the construction industry in Quebec.

Monsebroten said the open shop sector represents about 70 to 80 per cent of the construction industry in Canada, except in Quebec.

“Merit Canada has been working overtime to ensure that the federal policy makers start reflecting this reality and already there are promising signs,” Monsebroten said.

He praised the federal government for proposing the repeal of the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act in its budget implementation bill.

The Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act law requires that that every contract made with the federal government for construction, remodelling, repair or demolition is subject to certain conditions, including what it calls "fair wages," defined in part as wages which are "generally accepted as current for competent workmen in the district in which the work is being performed."

Federal construction contracts are also subject to other conditions, including overtime pay equal to 1.5 times the wages in the contracts, and working hours are normally restricted to eight hours per day or 48 hours per week.

Monsebroten noted Merit Canada supports Bill C-377, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (labour organizations), which is a private member’s bill sponsored by Russ Hiebert, a Conservative backbencher representing the Vancouver area riding of South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale in the House of Commons. Hiebert’s bill would require unions and other labour organizations to submit financial statements to the government, and ultimately the public.

In addition to balance sheets and income statements, unions would be required to compile and make public a set of statements listing the totals, and all disbursements over $5,000, of several categories of expenditures. They would have to publish the name and address of the payer and payee, the purpose and description of the transaction and the specific amount that has been paid or received, or that is to be paid or received. They would be required to provide expenditures on labour relations activities, political activities, lobbying activities, conferences, conventions and legal activities.

They would also have to include expenditures on salaries and other payments (including benefits, vehicles, bonuses and pension obligations) for officers, directors, employees and contractors. In addition, unions would also have to provide a record of the percentage of time dedicated to political activities and to lobbying activities for officers directors, employees and contractors. In addition to Bill C-377, Monsebroten praised the Harper government for immigration reform.

“On this issue we have enjoyed very productive discussions with the federal government and we were thrilled to hear (Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism) Minister (Jason) Kenney’s announcement in April of a new immigration stream for skilled trades persons,” he said. “While Merit Canada has enjoyed remarkable success on the federal front, at the provincial level the landscape for open shop contractors differs considerably from coast to coast. Some provincial governments have shown a greater commitment to free enterprise principals whereas others continue to be beholden to the narrow interests of organized labour.”

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