Nfld. & Labrador

Pension and a paycheque: Lorraine Michael explains double-dipping

New Democrat MHA Lorraine Michael says the rules of the House of Assembly require her to collect a pension along with her salary as a sitting member.
Lorraine Michael was first elected in a by-election in Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi in 2006. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

New Democrat MHA Lorraine Michael says federal law requires her to collect a pension, even though she is also still paid a salary as a sitting member of the House of Assembly. 

"I have no choice. It's the law of the land," Michael told Here and Now on Thursday, a reference to the Income Tax Act which says an employee must start collecting his or her pension on Dec. 1 of the year they turn 71.

Michael, who was born in March 1943, is now nearly 73.

"If somebody is eligible for a pension, once they become 72, they have to take that pension, but at the same time that doesn't mean somebody can't continue working," she said.

"And I'm still wanting to work. I think I've been doing a very hard job, a good job, working for the people of the province, of my district, and in the past general election people re-elected me."

Elected almost 10 years ago

Michael was first elected in a 2006 byelection in the former district of Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, and was re-elected in 2007. 2011 and 2015.

She also served as NDP leader for nine years before stepping down in March 2015.

Michael said she donates to registered charities and causes.

"The opportunity to do that is certainly there with more money coming in and I look forward to doing that."

She refused to say, however, if she donates her entire pension and said rules of the legislature prevent her from saying which charities she supports.

Members of the Newfoundland and Labrador legislature make a base salary of just over $95,000 a year.

Michael also receives extra pay — $13,000 — for her role as NDP caucus chair, as does the MHA for St. John's Centre, Gerry Rogers, who serves as party whip.

She said the responsibilities are defined in the House of Assembly Accountability Act.

Both NDP members of the House of Assembly collect extra pay for the roles of caucus chair and party whip. (CBC)

"The jobs are there to be done. It doesn't matter, It doesn't say in legislation whether it's two or 10," she said.

"I'm open to looking at the supplements for all those positions, not just for the third party."

Any rule change would have to be approved through the House Management Commission, she said.

Ball has called pension plan 'rich'

In June 2014, Dwight Ball — then Liberal Leader — promised that he would scale back the pensions given to MHAs, calling it "a rich pension plan."

He has also removed the $27,036 stipend paid to parliamentary secretaries, who help cabinet ministers.

"I think if we talk about supplements that we don't just pick on one party because the number of members has changed," said Michael.

"The thing is we are an official party in the House of Assembly. We are an official caucus ...let's be fair."

The St. John's Telegram published a story about Michael's pension earlier this week, but Michael said no one has complained to her directly about the fact that she is collecting a pension. 

 "I haven't had it said to me by constituents. As a matter of fact in the last 24 hours I've had the opposite said to me, and it's very curious where it's coming from. The timing is very curious."

With files from Debbie Cooper