Behind closed doors, MPs weigh reforms to their pensions
Published Tuesday, September 18, 2012 10:16PM EDT
The Conservative government’s plan to reform the pension system for MPs will have no input from the public even though taxpayers have been contributing $24 for every $1 an MP puts into the program.
As the government works to implement a new scheme that will balance the contribution split to 50 per cent each, critics say the overhaul is long overdue.
“It’s something that creates a big gap in our society. You have the ‘haves’ that are working for the public sector and you have the ‘have nots’ – the rest of the taxpayers,” Bill Tufts of the advocacy group Fair Pensions for All told CTV’s Power Play Tuesday.
“Unfortunately, it’s the ‘have nots’ that are paying these very lucrative, generous and gold-plated pensions.”
There is $860 million dollars in the parliamentary pension plan and the government pays 10.4 per cent interest on that money.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation estimates that more than 120 MPs will be eligible to collect more than $1 million in pensions by age 80 if they leave office in 2015. Thirty-seven of them could collect more than $2 million if they do the same.
The federation says MPs are well-paid and don’t need publicly-funded pensions.
“Why can’t you use an RRSP or a tax-free savings account like the rest of us?” CTF director Gregory Thomas said. “Why can’t (MPs) use a pooled pension plan that they set up last year for the rest of us?”
CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife reported Monday night that changes are coming, even though some MPs are not happy to see their pensions reined in.
The age at which an MP can begin collecting a pension will rise from 55 to 65 after the next election in 2015. The eligibility age will rise again to 67 in 2029.
Sources told Fife that MPs are waiting to hear about possible reforms to a special bonus pension of $100,000 for a prime minister who serves four years or more.
For Prime Minister Stephen Harper, that would amount to $104,000 on top of his $119,000 MP’s pension.
“He’s got this additional perk above and beyond other parliamentarians’ benefits,” said Liberal MP Gerry Byrne. “It should be on the table. It must be on the table.”
A vote on MP pension changes could come as early as Wednesday. The Conservatives have been quietly shopping the reforms around to opposition MPs, Fife reported Tuesday.
The MPs themselves will be able to craft and review the proposed changes. The Canadian Press reports that a committee of about a half-dozen MPs was formed in the spring to go over the details.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Tuesday the pension overhaul is “difficult for all members of Parliament.”
“It’s a time of change and adjustment,” he said in Ottawa, adding: “It's what Canadians expect us to do, and I support doing it.”
With a report from CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife