Thursday, February 4, 2016

PENSIONS, BENEFITS AND PARTY STATUS IN THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY

Double dipping, where a politician receives two incomes, ie. holding a government job and receiving a government pension, has long been an issue of public discourse in the province. 

After all some feel there is only one taxpayer.

The normal age for retirement in Canada is 65, however one cannot be forced to retire at that age. Mandatory retirement of federally and provincially regulated employees is prohibited.

We have had politicians who have left provincial politics and have been elected as Members of the House of Commons that have received their provincial pensions while being paid an MPs salary (and a ministers salary). 

There have been several provincial politicians that retired from provincial politics that returned to the House of Assembly while eligible or in receipt of MHA pensions. I can only assume they did not receive the benefit of both, but I know they retired with a healthy top-up to their original pension.

We now have a retired federal MP who served in Ottawa for 19 years who was elected as an MHA and serves in the Provincial Cabinet. Once might safely assume that he might very well be eligible for a federal pension as well as a his current pay.

The current chief of staff to the premier is a retired MHA and cabinet minister. One can only assume that he is not receiving his MHA pension and a salary as Chief of Staff. If so, does the Speaker, an elected Liberal MHA have any concerns with that?


All of these folks earned their pensions through years of public service. 

Like anyone else who decides to work after retirement from one job, they can receive their pensions and another salary. There is nothing illicit about that.

Yesterday, the public learned that the former NDP Leader, and recently re-elected, MHA Lorraine Michael is receiving her salary as an MHA, her MHA's pension and some additional bonuses for acting as the party's whip/house leader. 

Micheal's is entitled to her salary for the work she is doing. Apparently, she nor the House of Assembly have much control over the fact that she is at an age where she must receive her MHA's pension.  

She earned it, I have no issue with it.

Human rights organizations gave ageism the pink slip.  In this epoch of longevity, it was determined to be unfair to force people in good health out the door because they were deemed by an arbitrary number to be too old.  Newfoundland and Labrador struct down mandatory retirement at 65 in 2007.  

The Senate of Canada's rules say that Senators can not sit after they reach the age of 75. All judges in Canada are subject to mandatory retirement, at age 70 or 75 depending on the court. 

There is not a mandatory retirement age for members of the House of Assembly. If an individual continues to get elected past the age of 71 and is eligible for a pension, they are entitled to their salary and their pension.  Private companies have long encouraged retired senior employees to return to work. Why the double standard?

The article in The Telegam raises another issue though, the provision of resources for parliamentary roles in the House of Assembly. *

I was surprised that the New Democrats, with only two seats in the legislature, qualified for party status that unlocks of hundreds of thousands of extra dollars for staff and provides extra money for individual MHAs that carry out extra parliamentary duties above and beyond the role of MHA. 

That decision was not made by the House of Assembly (which is supposed to set the rules), it was made by Premier Ball alone. The than Premier-designate told reporters that the NDP would have official status in the House of Assembly. **

Let us remember that the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act spells out the entitlements of a third party but the House of Assembly determines what constitutes a third party or parliamentary body in the legislature.

It is the legislature that determines if two members or three members constitutes a third party. The last ruling on the matter (that I am aware of) was by former Speaker Paddy McNicholas who determined in the 1980's that a party needed to elect at least three members to the House of Assembly to enjoy party status.


I questioned the NDP allocation in 2008 based on the fact that the New Democrats had just one seat in the House of Assembly at the time. They were not a parliamentary body as defined by a McNicholas rule. If  they were not a recognized parliamentary group, than how could the House of Assembly provide resources for them? 

I can only concur that through precedent, by virtue of the House of Assembly ignoring the McNicholas Rule, the third party is now a fully recognized parliamentary body (with all the resources that come with it) as long as they elect just one member. The precedent is set.

It all seems so haphazard. Fledgling opposition parties should not have to march into the House of Assembly Management Committee after every election and negotiate their needs, particularly in a province that is so prone to lopsided majorities.

* Polemic and Paradox clarifies the status of the McNicholas Rule and the determination of caucus. parliamentary body. I am told the rule was superseded by the The House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act in 2007. Idefines a caucus as (d)  "caucus" means a group of 2 or more members who belong to the same registered political party.  

** Thus the Premier, nor the Speaker determine the matter. The premier's declaration that the NDP would receive party status was based on an interpretation of the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is within their rights to double dip. And we elected them... Enough said. Lorraine Michaels also collects her old age security.