Outgoing Penticton MLA Bill Barisoff is expected to leave office with an annual pension that will start at nearly $91,000, according to an estimate prepared by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
Barisoff is set to retire this spring after 17 years in the provincial legislature, where he spent the past eight as Speaker of the House. During the 2012 fiscal year, the long-time Liberal earned a total salary of $153,207.
Jordan Bateman, the B.C. director of the CTF, said the calculations for MLA pensions are complicated, but he’s “fairly confident” Barisoff’s pension at age 65 will total $90,992, then rise with the cost of living each year after that. That’s on top of a severance package equal to 15 months’ pay.
Barisoff did not respond to a request for comment.
Bateman said for every dollar MLAs contribute to their own pensions, they receive about four dollars from B.C. taxpayers.
“We’re certainly not saying MLAs shouldn’t have a pension, but we think a dollar-for-dollar RRSP… would be a much fairer way of ensuring they have some money set aside,” Bateman said.
The watchdog cautioned, however, that calculating pensions for Barisoff and other long-serving MLAs is made difficult by a change to the program from 1996 to 2007 when a less generous retirement package was in place. When the “gold-plated” model was restored in 2007, MLAs were given the option of buying back the lost years, Bateman said.
There is no public record of who actually did buy back, he continued, but eligible MLAs would have been “absolutely nuts” not to.
“What’s frustrating with a guy like Barisoff though is … he ran in 1996 with Gordon Campbell (and) they signed a pledge they were going to get rid of gold-plated pensions. They were so convincing that even though they lost, Glen Clark and the NDP did get rid of those pensions. And then in 2007, Campbell flip-flopped and brought them back,” Bateman said.
Barisoff’s salary last year included the $102,138 received by all MLAs, plus an additional $51,069 for his duties as Speaker, according to public records. In the first nine months of 2012, he also claimed $57,010 for travel expenses and an accommodation allowance in Victoria.
Boundary-Similkameen MLA John Slater, who quit the Liberals in January and will not stand for re-election, is not eligible for a pension because he was only elected in 2009 and has fewer than six years’ service.
According to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s calculations, Barisoff’s pension is the second richest among 21 eligible MLAs elected in 2009 who will not run again this spring. Rounding out the top five are:
*Gordon Campbell (15 years’ service): $98,175 annually
*George Abbott (17): $89,084
*Colin Hansen (17): $89,039
*Murray Coell (17) $89,000