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Cape Breton Post - - NATIONAL -

OTTAWA (CP) — Al­most all the re­main­ing MPs from the old Re­form Party — in­clud­ing Stephen Harper — stand to col­lect over $100,000 a year in pen­sion ben­e­fits once they re­tire.

Eleven of the orig­i­nal group of 52 Re­form­ers, who cap­tured pub­lic at­ten­tion with their stand against “gold-plated” pen­sions for mem­bers of Par­lia­ment, are still sit­ting in the House of Com­mons.

And they may find their old pen­sion prom­ises com­ing back to haunt them as the Harper gov­ern­ment turns its at­ten­tion to elim­i­nat­ing the fed­eral deficit.

Back in 1993 when Re­form­ers first ar­rived on Par­lia­ment Hill, the party made its name by ad­vo­cat­ing cuts to MP pen­sions as a way of lead­ing by ex­am­ple and fac­ing down the deficit.

Now though, al­most all of the orig­i­nal group of Re­form­ers who said they would turn down the gen­er­ous ben­e­fits pack­age have qui­etly opted back in, ac­cord­ing to tracking by the Cana­dian Tax­pay­ers Fed­er­a­tion. (Pre­ston Man­ning and Werner Sch­midt were the key ex­cep­tions.)

Of the re­main­ing 11 for­mer Re­form­ers in the Com­mons, 10 of them would re­ceive well over $100,000 a year in ben­e­fits if they were to re­tire by the end of the year, num­bers crunched by the lobby group sug­gest.

While MPs’ in­di­vid­ual pen­sion ben­e­fit de­tails are not pub­lished, the for­mula used to cal­cu­late them is, ex­plained Derek Filde­brandt, the fed­er­a­tion’s na­tional re­search di­rec­tor.

Prime Min­is­ter Harper, who was first elected in 1993 but then took a break from Ottawa be­fore be­ing elected again in a by-elec­tion in 2002, would re­ceive about $150,244, ac­cord­ing to the group’s cal­cu­la­tions.

In a 1995 speech, he called the pen­sion pack­age a “mon­stros­ity” that was “ob­scene.”

“My wife and I just pur­chased our first home and we are plan­ning for our fu­ture, but I could not go home and look my wife or my con­stituents in the eye if I opted into a plan like the one of­fered in Bill C-85. In­stead, I will put my own money into an RRSP,” he told the Com­mons.

Saskatchewan MP Garry Bre­itkreuz, who stands to col­lect $118,668 an­nu­ally, was adamant 15 years ago that rein­ing in MP com­pen­sa­tion was the key to eco­nomic re­cov­ery.

“Let me pro­pose this,” he told the Com­mons in May 1995. “Let us re­move this Cadil­lac pen­sion plan. Let us re­duce the salary of MPs un­til they solve our debt and deficit prob­lem, un­til they be­gin to re­duce taxes, un­til the jobs come back into the coun­try.”

Keith Martin, who now sits as a Lib­eral but started out as a Re­form mem­ber, said MPs’ pen­sion com­pen­sa­tion should mir­ror the pri­vate sec­tor.

“One of the things that we can do is have the same pen­sion plan as the peo­ple who voted for us,” he said in 1995. “ We want to have the same pen­sion plan as the pri­vate sec­tor and, in essence, lead by ex­am­ple.”

A decade and a half later, MPs’ com­pen­sa­tion pack­ages are com­ing un­der scru­tiny again, as the Con­ser­va­tives pre­pare a bud­get in which they’ve promised to show how they will erad­i­cate the deficit.

Pub­lic ser­vice unions fear a gov­ern­ment raid on their pen­sion pack­ages may be in the works in the name of spending re­duc­tions, es­pe­cially since sym­pa­thy in the pri­vate sec­tor for pub­lic ser­vants is not vis­i­ble.

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