Pensions - an MP's just desserts or the taxpayers' burden
Sunday, January 22, 2012
OTTAWA - Just weeks before Canadians find out where the Conservatives plan to slash billions of dollars in spending, some analysts are pointing to the
"gold plated" MP pensions as a good place to start.
"You go into the
public service to serve the public," said Ian Lee, an economist and financial
commentator from the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University in Ottawa.
"If you want to just make a lot of money, my answer is always the same: just go
into the private sector."
Lee noted it would be difficult to find a
private-sector employee who becomes eligible for a pension at
In order to qualify for a pension, an MP has to be in
office at least six years plus one day, and contribute seven per cent of their
salary for each of those years.
So if an MP earns the most basic salary
and works for six years, they would earn $28,260 when after hitting their 55th
But for any MP who serves more than six years, or who earns a
higher salary because they chaired a committee, were named to cabinet or became
party leader or Speaker of the House, that person ends up with a more generous
For example, if Pierre-Luc Dusseault, who became the youngest MP
in the House when elected in May, retires in 2019 at the age of 27, he would be
eligible for a pension of just more than $40,000, according to a recent study
the Canadian Taxpayers Federation published.
If Bob Rae remains leader of
the Liberal party and retires in 2019, he would collect a pension of more than
$96,765 every year, that same study shows.
And if Stephen Harper --
prime minister of Canada, leader of the Canadian Alliance and Conservative party
-- retires in 2019, he will qualify for a pension worth more than $259,500. Bear
in mind, that figure doesn't include the four years he opted out of the plan
during his time as a Reform MP.
The Taxpayers Federation said their
numbers were estimates based on publicly available information and
While those figures might seem like a generous gift from the
taxpayers, Canadians should consider that being an MP means working 18-hour
days, spending loads of time away from family and being under constant public
scrutiny, defeated Liberal MP Martha Hall Findley said during an appearance on
The West Block.
"There are a lot of people (in Ottawa) who left
professional lives, me being one of them, who absolutely took a significant
cut," she said, suggesting the pensions could be painted as a perk to help
attract good candidates to a job that has several unappealing factors.
"An MP makes a very solid salary compared to most Canadians. Absolutely.
And the pensions are good. Absolutely," Hall Findlay said. "But when we consider
what a lot of those MPs have given up to be able to contribute to public
service, it's significant."
The problem with that logic, Lee said, is
that it assumes monetary compensation is the only incentive for anybody seeking
"There's intellectual compensation -- policy. Most people
don't pass laws," he said. "Three hundred and six people are controlling the
lives of 33 million people."
When asked last week, Finance Minister Jim
Flaherty said MP pensions don't fall under his watch, but said he expected there
to be some discussion round the fund, which taxpayers pour $102 million into
every year, according to the Taxpayers Federation.