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NDP wants Liberals to scrap proposed election date change that could secure pensions for many MPs

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The federal New Democrats want to amend the Liberal government's electoral reform legislation to scrap the proposal to push back the vote by a week and consequently secure pensions for dozens of MPs, CTV News has learned.

It is a perk of the date change NDP MP and the party's democratic institutions critic Lisa Marie Barron says "doesn't look good," in the broader context of Canadians' cost of living concerns.

"I've had constituents and Canadians bring this to my attention, and I just want to make very clear that right now is not the time for members of Parliament to be thinking about their own financial gain," she said in an interview. "We want to make sure that we're very clear from the onset around the necessary amendments for us to move forward on this."

Stitched in to Bill C-65, the "Electoral Participation Act" – among a series of elections law reforms aimed at making it easier for Canadians to vote and harder for bad actors to meddle – the Liberals are trying to move the 2025 fixed Oct. 20 election date to the following Monday, Oct. 27. 

When Democratic Institutions Minister Dominic LeBlanc tabled the bill in March, the Liberals said this proposed date change was to ensure election day did not conflict with Diwali, a widely-celebrated religious holiday that also falls on Oct. 20 next year.

But, it quickly became clear that a knock-on advantage of moving voting day by a week, would be securing lucrative pensions for a slate of MPs that otherwise wouldn't have qualified if the vote was held one week sooner and had they lost their seats.

80 MPs stand to benefit

That's because MPs need to serve for at least six years in order to qualify for a pension upon retirement, and for the 80 MPs who were first elected on Oct. 21, 2019, if they were to be defeated on Oct. 20, 2025 they'd just miss that six year mark and instead only qualify for a one-time severance allowance. 

Under the Canada Elections Act, federal votes must be held on the third Monday in October four years after the previous election. With this bill, the Liberals are seeking a one-time carve-out to that rule.

Should Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's minority government fall anytime before then, forcing an earlier election than the fixed date, these MPs would also be out of luck.

Overseen by the House of Commons administration, there are a series of criteria used to calculate MPs' pensions, but according to calculations done by the Canadian Taxpayers' Association, with the annual starting pension ranging from $32,000 to $49,000, should all 80 MPs lose their seats on Oct. 27, 2025, voters would be on the hook for an estimated $120 million.

The Conservative party has the highest number of MPs who would benefit by being able to qualify for a pension should they lose their seats in the next election, with 32 of their MPs first elected in 2019. Though, continuing to dominate in the polls, it's possible these politicians are less pressed about voters potentially pulling the rug out from under them.

In a March interview on The Alex Pierson Show, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said he opposed delaying the fixed election date, and vowed to vote against it.

"I'm not good with the changes. I agree that the election shouldn't be on holiday for millions of Canadians. However, the answer to that is move the election forward," he said. "Of course it's not about Diwali, they want to get their pensions." 

There are 22 Liberal MPs, 19 Bloc Quebecois MPs— more than half their caucus— and six NDP MPs elected in 2019 who would be among those standing to secure pensions if they were defeated in 2025.

Barron, elected in 2021, is not one of them. Neither is NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh as he secured his seat in a 2019 federal byelection months before the general election. 

Liberals didn't mention pension perk

In many respects, Bill C-65 was a co-production with the NDP, as tied into the two-party supply-and-confidence pact was a pledge to advance electoral reform measures to expand "the ability for people to vote." 

And while those measures were included within the legislation, the Liberals also added in a number of other proposed alterations to the way Canadians cast their ballots, as well as updates to federal election laws to keep up with modern technology, the rise of disinformation and evolving foreign threats.

The date change is among the measures included outside the scope of the two-party pact, but Barron said the Liberals did not bring to her party's attention the implications of moving election day in their discussions pre-tabling, something she called "problematic."

NDP MP Lisa Marie Barron rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

"This information was not provided when this portion of the bill was presented to us," she said.

While Barron stopped short of inferring motive, she said it does "seem" disingenuous for the Liberals to frame this proposal as being about Diwali.

Barron said her party agrees Diwali is "of course very important," pointing to other measures in the bill such as expanding the number of days Canadians have to cast their ballots, which could help accommodate electoral participation during holidays that coincide with federal campaigns.

In a statement to CTV News, a spokesperson for LeBlanc said that beyond Diwali, the current election date also conflicts with Alberta municipal elections, meaning advance polls would be held during Thanksgiving as well as the Jewish celebration of Sukkot.

"In co-developing this legislation with the NDP, we looked at a range of dates, and the best one was October 27th, 2025. With a number of fixed-date elections and holidays occurring throughout the fall of 2025, this is truly a situation where there is no perfect solution—so we're looking at the best one available," said Jean-Sébastien Comeau.

NDP say amendment 'necessary'

While Barron has said scrapping the plan to push the election back by one week is to her party a "necessary" amendment, she's not ready to say that without it, the New Democrats will pull their support for the legislation altogether.

"There's a lot of really important pieces to this bill," Barron said. "But I can say with certainty that I will not be supporting members of Parliament who were not eligible for their pensions prior, now being eligible."

There have been initial discussions between the Liberals and their often legislative dance partners the New Democrats about their discontent, but it remains to be seen if the government will be receptive to reversing course on their plan to push back the election.

LeBlanc's office said the minister is looking forward to debate on the bill, and "if our partners in Parliament have constructive ideas, we're more than open to hearing them."

Bill C-65 is expected to come up for its first hours of debate on Friday, and Barron plans to press the Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois to commit to backing the NDP's amendment to keep the election date as-is, when the legislation reaches the committee study stage. 

Responding to the news about the NDP's plans, Canadian Taxpayers Federation federal director Franco Terrazzano called on all MPs to "do the right thing," and oppose rescheduling the election.

"The NDP deserves credit for announcing plans to amend the legislation and scrap the delay," Terrazzano said. "Canadians are struggling, so there's no way MPs should rig the system so more politicians can collect lucrative, taxpayer-funded pensions." 

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