Pen­sion plan lite

The Southern Gazette - - EDITORIAL -

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.

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