MP REPORT: Pensions and Parliament

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla and writes this weekly report for his constituents.

Next week the House of Common will be back in session as the spring sitting will be underway on Monday, Jan. 26.

Currently the House of Commons is scheduled to sit from Jan. 26 until the end of June with a few break weeks scattered throughout. Normally after the end of June the House would rise and resume in late September – given that this is an election year it is unexpected that the House will sit after June unless a matter arises that results in the Parliament being recalled, a rare occurrence.

As this is the final year for the 41st Parliament it also means the end of what many have called “gold plated” MP Pensions. When I was first elected in 2011 concerns about the MP Pension plan were among some of the topics frequently raised by citizens and in turn I was one of the first Members of Parliament in Ottawa to publicly support changes to the MP Pension plan that were more respectful to taxpayers. Ultimately our Government did make changes that will become implemented for those MP’s elected into what will become the 42nd Parliament.

The changes to the MP Pension plan will see a Member of Parliament pension contributions move towards equal 50/50 cost sharing, a change that is also being implemented to the federal public service pensions. I also discovered that some citizens believe a retired Member of Parliament who has qualified for an MP Pension can immediately begin collecting pension benefits upon retirement from Parliament. Under the current rules a qualifying MP cannot begin to collect a pension until they turn 55 although this is also being phased out and newly elected MPs, much like newly hired federal public service workers, will have a new retirement age set at 65. These combined changes to the MP pension plan and the federal public sector pension plan are estimated to save taxpayers $2.6 billion over the next five years.

One other possible change to MP pensions is courtesy of a private members bill from my Conservative colleague MP John Williamson.

In the past some Members of Parliament, including Senators, have been convicted of serious criminal acts. Many Canadians have found it offensive when a convicted criminal who was formerly an MP or Senator can continue to collect generous pension payments on behalf of Canadian taxpayers. Worse, there is currently a loophole where an MP or Senator who is facing criminal charges can retire or resigns prior to being convicted so they can be fully entitled to a full Parliamentary pension including benefits for life. Private Members Bill C-518 proposes a mechanism that Members of Parliament and Senators convicted of serious crimes would no longer be entitled to collect a generous taxpayer provided Parliamentary pension and related benefits. This bill is supported by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and to date all citizens in Okanagan-Coquihalla that I have heard from on this subject. I have previously spoken in support of this Bill in the House of Commons and intend to do so again as this bill returns for debate next week.

I mention changes to both the gold plated MP pension plan and the federal public sector pension plan for a reason. As many citizens will know our Government recently announced increasing the universal child tax benefit and also extending it to children over six years old that will ensure all families working or not will receive more support. Our Government has also proposed tax fairness for families – and to be clear these changes can result in families sending less of their household income to Ottawa. Often those in opposition suggest that Ottawa cannot afford for families to pay less tax back to Ottawa. What is seldom pointed out is that families paying $2.6 billion less over five years towards MP and public sector pensions means that some of that money can in fact be returned to Canadian families. As I have mentioned previously we are fortunate in a democracy that the subject of taxes and paying more or less of your money to Ottawa is one of many subjects that is part of healthy democratic discussion and debate. As always I welcome your views on this or any subject before the House, I can be reached or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.

Dan Albas is the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla and writes this weekly report for his constituents.