Canadians must join forces to protest MPs’ rich pensions

Retired MPs draw an average $78,000 per year while seniors who paid taxes all their lives are using the food bank

Editor: I have been researching the pension plan offered to Members of Parliament and have found it to be a lavish expenditure of taxpayers’ money — an expenditure which we Canadians cannot afford.

MPs receive between $157,000 and $314,000 per year. The average Canadian earns $45,000. Canada’s national debt is now over $580 billion, and growing.

After six years of service, MPs are entitled to a pension. This is calculated at three per cent, times years of service, times salary.

For example, an MP who served three terms and earned $200,000 because they took on an extra duty would have their pension calculated at three per cent times nine times $200,000. This equals $54,000 per year for the rest of their life, beginning at age 55.

The average Canadian does not have a pension other than what they are able to save and the minimal government pensions.

We have seniors in our country who are going to food banks and free meal centres, as they cannot pay their rent and buy food. Most of these Canadians are people who have worked all their lives, paid taxes and are devastated to now have to ask for help.

The average MP pension is $78,000. I have no doubt that MPs feel that they deserve this level of remuneration and perhaps they do. Sadly, what we deserve and what we can afford are two different issues. We as Canadians cannot afford these pensions.

We cannot afford these pensions as long as the government is debating whether or not to raise the level of eligibility to 67 from 65 to save money. Not as long as we have hard-working Canadians who have reached their senior years and now struggle to keep a roof over their heads and food on their tables. If these people had received between $157,000 and $314,000 per year, they could have been able to set aside a retirement fund. Instead they worked for $45,000 and struggled to raise their families, while paying taxes to cover government expenses.

MP pension plans are banked, not invested. The MP pension plan is government regulated to grow at a rate of 10.4 per cent per year. If the interest rate does not generate this growth, the Canadian people top it up to make sure it reaches its 10.4 per cent mandate.

Canadians who are lucky enough to have a workplace pension plan are tied to the growth or decline of their pension plan’s investments.

The average pension plan has decreased approximately 20 per cent in this latest economic decline. Seniors who have invested with the plan of living off of the interest from their investments are struggling to get by with record low returns.

The government’s proposed review of the MP pension plan is to be headed by Tony Clement, a long-time Conservative and future recipient of the gold-plated pension plan.

You may also remember Clement from the questions regarding the $50 million spent for the G8 summit, most of which ended up in his riding for projects which would require some mental gymnastics to see the relationship between the summit and the way the money was spent. He has yet to fully discuss this issue.

Is this the person we trust to arrive at an objective, fair conclusion?

Could we have some of our hungry seniors review their pensions and have their recommendations binding and without accountability? I think I would trust the seniors.

Most people tell me that they know that the MP pension plans are unfair and unaffordable. They then shrug and say something to the effect of, “What can you do?”  The  truth is that individuals can do little, but as a group we can do a lot.

Please don’t hold back your opinion and feel powerless. That feeling is what makes us powerless. If everyone who felt as I do called or e-mailed their MP and expressed their concerns, they would need to take our concerns seriously. If everyone who felt as I do printed out a petition requesting an independent review and got at least 25 people to sign it (you are welcome to a copy of mine),  their MP would be required to present it in the House of Commons.

There is no minimum age to sign a petition. Canadians of any age can and should get involved. What a gift it would be to our kids to show them how democracy is supposed to work.

Silence implies consent. I believe that as the majority of Canadians say nothing in protest, the government is given the opportunity to say that most Canadians see nothing wrong with the MP pension plan.

Maybe that’s true. Maybe the people I speak with are a select group.  I hope this isn’t the case.

Any feedback is welcome. I can be reached via e-mail at a.dandrea@shaw.ca.

Andree D’Andrea

Maple Ridge