Pension plan lite
Recently members of the House of Assembly management commission did what they should have done in the first place: they accepted recommendations on MHA pensions from an independent committee.
The management commission hasn’t always been so compliant. Last fall, its members argued the new plan – which offers fewer benefits and a longer time before MHAs can draw pensions – shouldn’t come into place until the next election. They contended MHAs elected for the first time in the last election should get the plummy benefits that existed when they decided to run for office.
Keep in mind that, in 2015-2016, MHAs contributed $400,000 towards pensions, while former MHAs received single-year benefits worth $7.3 million. At the end of that fiscal year, the fund had $21.4 million in assets, but had expected benefit liabilities of $118.6 million, leaving ordinary taxpayers on the hook for the rest.
It was a step in the right direction, led by members of the two opposition parties. Why was it the right thing to do?
The simple answer is that members of the House of Assembly should have it no better than the people they represent.
Sure, they should be paid commensurate to their position and the amount of work they do. Politicians should be well compensated for their heavy workload and responsibilities, but they shouldn’t enjoy benefits far surpassing those of the people they represent.
If they enjoy increases in pay and pension benefits that clearly outstrip those available to their constituents, how on Earth can they be expected to understand — viscerally understand — the personal impacts of the decisions and legislation that they put in place?
Why should an MHA not have to feel the full impact of the levy they vote in?
More to the point, why should an MHA or a Member of Parliament benefit from a pension plan of a kind that almost no Canadians enjoy? What understanding does that give a politician about the struggles of others to get fair pensions?
If the politician’s pension is the stuff of hearts, flowers and unicorns, they might not ever truly understand the pitfalls that ordinary Canadians — whose employers have fled proper pension plans in droves in recent years — will be facing in upcoming years.
Politicians are in a unique position of being able to put their own pay rates and benefits in place. The only thing restraining them right now, honestly, is public embarrassment and electorate outrage.
Thankfully, those are powerful restraints. Politicians and their remuneration should be tied to the real world, not to a world of their own creation.
To the new MHAS who might have thought they were getting on board a delightfully perpetual gravy train?
Sorry. We can’t afford to keep you in the style to which you expected to become accustomed.