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Controversial Bill Targeting Unions Will Become Law

Conservative senators used their majority to pass Bill C-377.

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A major standoff in the Senate ended Tuesday as Conservative senators used their majority to pass a much-criticized union transparency bill.

Bill C-377, which will force unions to open their books to the public, was passed 35 to 22. Proposed amendments to the bill were all defeated.

Conservatives celebrated the victory.

Emma Loop / BuzzFeed Canada

"The Senate has demonstrated that it is vital,” said Leader of the Government in the Senate Claude Carignan moments before the red chamber rose for the last time before the next federal election.

Three Conservatives voted against the bill — Diane Bellemare from Quebec, Nancy Ruth from Ontario, and John Wallace of New Brunswick. A fourth, Douglas Black of Alberta, abstained from voting.

The bill was forced to a final vote this week when, on Friday, Conservative Senators overturned a ruling by the speaker and gave themselves the power to kill a Liberal filibuster.

Speaker Leo Housakos, a recent Conservative appointee, had rejected his own party's motion. But in overruling him, Tory senators were able to change the rules and force a vote Tuesday.

C-377 was introduced by backbench Conservative MP Russ Hiebert more than three years ago. It will force unions to disclose contracts of more than $5,000 and union officers' salaries of more than $100,000. Some union members and contractors will also have to disclose information related to a wide range of organizing activities.

Now that it has passed third reading in the Senate, all that's needed to make the bill law is Royal Assent from the governor general.

The bill received heavy criticism from experts at committee hearings, the federal privacy commissioner, seven provinces, opposition parties, and Conservative senators, some of whom voted to kill C-377.

Carignan defended C-377 as a good bill that will uphold the rights of workers to know how their dues are spent.

He said those who support the bill will applaud the Senate while those who oppose it will accuse the Senate of being useless.

"We cannot judge an institution [based on whether] we agree with you or not," he said.

Carignan said he was very satisfied with the session and senators performed their role as a body for sober second thought.

"We adopted a lot of legislation, good bills and it's the last one, so we are very happy," he said.

Liberal Senate Leader James Cowan had a much different take.

Emma Loop / BuzzFeed Canada

"These past few months have been amongst the most unpleasant and stressful of our parliamentary careers, if not our lives," he said.

Cowan said the Senate has done "embarrassingly little" to reform after it was hit by a long series of expense scandals.

In the end, four Conservative senators who had previously voted to amend C-377 changed their votes and this time supported it unamended: Daniel Lang from the Yukon, Judith Seidman from Quebec, Larry Smith from Quebec, and Betty Unger from Alberta.

Emma Loop is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

Contact Emma Loop at emma.loop@buzzfeed.com.

Paul McLeod is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

Contact Paul McLeod at paul.mcleod@buzzfeed.com.

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