Commission rejects proposed Liberal change to new MHA pensions

After months of debate and waffling, the House of Assembly management commission has accepted a new pension plan for MHAs recommended by an independent committee.

MHAs elected in 2015 will fall under new plan, which comes into effect later and raises benefit age

MHAs newly elected to the House of Assembly in 2015 will fall under the new pension plan instead of being grandfathered into the older, more lucrative one. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

After months of debate and waffling, the House of Assembly management commission has decided a new pension plan should apply to newly elected MHAs after all.

The commission voted Wednesday to accept the recommendation of the members compensation review committee that MHAs first elected in November 2015 should fall under a new, less-lucrative pension plan. With the new plan, it takes longer for an MHA to accrue benefits and raises the age at which they can draw a pension.

I've always said we should follow the MCRC recommendations, and I continue to do that.- Lorraine Michael

In December, the management commission amended the recommendation, arguing that MHAs elected in the previous election should be grandfathered into the old pension plan.

"I think there's a number of members in this House who, when they signed up to run in the last general election, they knew what they were getting into, in the sense that they could make employment plans, make financial plans," said Government House Leader Andrew Parsons at the time.

Liberals proposed further changes

That amendment was initially supported on the commission by Tories Keith Hutchings and Paul Davis — with the NDP's Lorraine Michael voting against it — but they backtracked less than a week later after a public outcry.

Premier Dwight Ball also asked the commission to reconsider.

Then, in March, the Liberals went further, proposing changing MHA pensions from a defined-benefit plan to a defined-contribution plan that would have reduced long-term pension benefits even more.

Commission approves recommendation 3-1

In the end, with very little discussion, Davis, Hutchings and Michael voted in favour of the committee's original recommendation, with Parsons voting against it.

Liberals Siobhan Coady and Mark Browne recused themselves from the vote due to conflict of interest; as MHAs elected in 2015, the decision affects them directly.

"I've always said we should follow the MCRC recommendations, and I continue to do that," said Michael.