74 Canadian MPs will qualify for pension if election delayed until July 2010

One out of five MPs in the House of Commons can boost their chances of receiving a lucrative pension by preventing a fall election and ensuring the current Parliament survives at least until July 2010, reveals a survey by Canwest News Service.

The survey examined the number of MPs who were first elected in June 2004 and are less than a year away from having the six years of service required to qualify for a government pension that can kick in at age 55.

It found that 74 MPs with several years of experience could find themselves without a pension, if they fail to hold onto their seats, and in the same boat as those elected for the first time in the 2008 election.

But if there is no election before next summer, 36 Conservatives, 16 Bloc Quebecois MPs, 14 Liberals and eight New Democrats can qualify for a pension that would give them at least $25,000 a year based on the minimum MP salary that now stands at $157,731 per year.

MPs who hold special positions in their caucus, on parliamentary committees or in cabinet, would have higher salaries and as a result would be eligible for larger pensions upon retirement.

New Democrat Nathan Cullen, who finds himself in the category of members with less than six years of experience, suggested the issue of pensions might be a concern for some of the older politicians, but he said he doubts it is a major factor that could determine whether they try to force or prevent an election.

“When I first got in, people were already starting to talk about the pension and I didn’t want to know about it,” said the 37-year-old MP from British Columbia.

“In this line of work, if you can call it that, I knew it would never go well for me if I was focused on whether I got a pension or what kind of pay I got. It had to be about the work itself.”

Conservative MP Steven Fletcher, the minister of state responsible for democratic reform, declined to be interviewed for this story, as did other MPs on the list from the federal Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois who were contacted by Canwest News Service.

“It’s an awkward conversation for us because we’re talking about ourselves,” said Cullen. “I want to talk about the health of the country, (or) which way the government is going, and this stuff is about (personal) finances.”

But Cullen said he got used to getting questions about his pay and benefits from visits to elementary and high school classrooms.

“Kids are just so much more direct,” he said with a chuckle. “I was in a classroom yesterday and they wanted to know.”

MPs who do not qualify for the pension still qualify for severance pay equivalent to half of their annual salary, along with a lump sum reimbursement of their contributions to the pension plan with annual compound interest at four per cent. As an active MP, they are required to make monthly contributions equivalent to seven per cent of their salaries.

The pension amount is calculated as a formula that consists of three per cent of the average income from the pay of the best five consecutive years of service multiplied by their years of service.

“It’s more generous than almost any plan that anybody can find in existence in Canada, absent of a CEO of a major corporation,” said Kevin Gaudet, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.



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