Is 34 too young to be appointed a senator for life?
Years ago when Liberal Sharon Carstairs was Official Opposition Leader in the Manitoba Legislature she would run on at great length to anyone who'd listen about how Canada needed an elected Triple E Senate, that is, until Jean Chretien appointed her to the Upper Chamber. When subsequently asked by a reporter it became, "I can now work from within to change the system."
Well, here it is several years later and we still don't have one. What's so difficult about electing senators we do it for Members of Parliament. Since they're appointed, to whom are they accountable?
Clare L. Pieuk
Young Senator Qualifies For Pension That Is 'Ticket To The Good Life' - Red Chamber Benefits
Daniel Leblanc, Globe and Mail
December 24, 2008 (Page A4)
As the youngest of Canada's 18 new senators, 34-year-old Patrick Brazeau will be eligible for pension benefits that most Canadians can only dream of, as soon as he hits 55.
If the current National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples remains in the Red Chamber until 2029, he will walk away with a pension worth 63 per cent of his indexed annual salaray which currently stands at $130,400. In today's dollars that's an annual pension of $82,000 - indexed for life - starting in his middle age.
"That's a ticket to the good life," said Kevin Gaudet of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. "If he lives to be 100, he'll be able to be on the Senate pension twice as long as he was a senator. That's the generosity of these plans especially when young people are appointed."
If Mr. Brazeau wants to earn the maximum pension - worth 75 per cent of his salary - he will have to wait an extra four years until he turns 59.
But even if he retires earlier, Mr. Brazeau, like all senators, will be eligible for a monthly pension after only six years in Parliament, earning annual payments worth 3 per cent of his annual salary for every year of service starting at age 55.
In an interview, Mr. Brazeau said he will work in the Senate on abroiginal issues and the promotion of Canadian unity, as well as, on Senate reform. He said he has not yet looked at the benefits package and has not decided on a retirement date.
"My personal intention is not to be there for the next 40 or 41 years," he said, referring to the mandatory retirement age of 75.
On average, when Parliament is in session, the Senate and various committees sit from Monday afternoon to Thursday afternoon. Friday sittings are an exception and summers are usually off.
The issue of pensions is important in relation to this week's controversial batch of Senate appointments, given that the average age of the 18 new Conservative representatives is relatively young at 57.
Of the 18 appointees, 13 are in their 50s or 60s and will already be eligible for a pension for life if they stay in their positions for six years.
The four youngest new senators are Mr. Brazeau, Conservative fundraiser Leo Housakos, 40, former Conservative candidate Yonah Martin, 43, and former Conservative MP Fabian Manning, 44. The four will be in line to receive pension benefits starting at the age of 55.
Only one of the new apointees, 71-year-old lawyer Fred Dickson, has four years of service and will be forced to retire without a pension.
In a news release two days ago, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the new senators have agreed to vote in favour of eight-year term limits. However, they were not asked to promise to resign in 2016, to prevent the creation of two classes of senators.
The NDP has said that the new Senate appointees will cost taxpayers a total of $6-million a year in salaaries, benefits and expenses.
The Conservatives yesterday issued a news release denouncing the "opposition hypocracy" (sic) on the Senate appointments.
"In fact, [Leader Jack] Layton and the NDP were strangely silent when [Green Party Leader] Elizabeth May announced that the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition was considering appointing her to the senate," the Conservative Party said.