Christopher Radojewski | Fulcrum Staff
IS IT TIME to put a little more faith in our politicians? Not many people, particularly students, would reduce their own paycheque if they had the power to. Despite the slim odds of cooperation among political parties, members of Parliament (MPs) did just that. On Oct. 19, they voted to contribute more to their pensions out of pocket, reducing the burden on taxpayers.
Maybe it is time to give all the MPs a little credit; but first, I want to applaud the Conservatives for their role in this issue.
The Conservatives brought up the issue that MP pensions should be reduced in line with other public service employees, but there was one catch. This issue was placed within the omnibus budget bill 2.0, named the Jobs and Growth Act.
Omnibus bills group together multiple issues for a single vote as a way of expediting the process. But that process can easily fail when a minority government is in power, since there are many issues political parties may not agree on.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper placed the pension issue in an omnibus bill, and at first refused to remove it, despite requests from the opposition to do so. Of course it would look like opposition parties voted against reducing their own pensions, when in reality it was other issues they voted against in the combined bill.
The shocking thing was that Prime Minister Harper eventually did remove the pension issue at the request of the Liberals, but it actually took three votes—with negotiation by parties in between votes—to pass the reduction. As a result, MPs must now make 50 per cent of the contribution to their pensions—an increase from 15 per cent.
This makes every party look good. The Conservatives made an effort to work with other parties, the Liberals initiated the motion to separate, and the New Democratic Party did a lot of the legwork to negotiate the bill’s success. But did MPs have much of a choice?
Canadians are feeling the crunch of bad economic times. Many individuals and families have had to amend their own budgets to be able to afford the necessities of life. The government has also made an impact on individuals’ financial stability by changing employment insurance rules and pension rules, and changing the age of retirement to 67 instead of 65. But to make all these changes without taking a hit themselves would have been truly hypocritical.
Even so, was it much of a loss for MPs? When reading the fine print, we see that MPs will start paying into their pensions at 50 per cent beginning Jan. 1, 2013. Although they changed the time of pension collection from 55 to 65 years of age, this only applies to new MPs elected in 2016. Therefore, none of our current MPs are affected.
MPs still have a pretty good deal. After working for only six years, they get a pension. What other job gives you that kind of deal? The interest on their pension plan also exceeds the interest on the average Canadian pension plan.
Regardless, I’m content. I can sleep easily knowing that it’s possible for political parties to work together, that MPs can take a monetary sacrifice (although it’s nothing compared to most citizens’), and that over the next five years, this change will save taxpayers about $2.6 billion. Although sometimes we might feel that parliamentarians have forgotten the everyday Canuck, I think they are still in touch with the problems Canadians face today.
Christopher Radojewski is the Fulcrum’s political columnist. If you have any comments or questions, email email@example.com