Cut MLA pensions to save money: group
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says if Nova Scotia's provincial government is looking for places to cut expenses, it should go to the MLA pension plan.
The provincial MLA pension plan allows politicians to begin collecting a pension after six years in office and allows veteran MLAs — those who have worked more than 15 years — to receive up to three-quarters of their salary.
"It's so rich that this program should be scrapped and a new program should be put in place that is more fair to taxpayers," said Kevin Lacey, the Atlantic Canada director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
"In some cases, MLAs will receive more in pension benefits than they will actually receive as salary for being an MLA."
The criticism comes as school boards across the province grapple with a possible $196 million in budget cuts over the next three years. Since an Education Department planning document was released in October, some school boards have come forward to complain that they will be forced to lay off hundreds of teachers and teaching assistants.
Lacey said thousands of people have signed the organization's petition demanding pension reform.
The national lobby group reviewed the plan and found that for every dollar a politician contributes in Nova Scotia, taxpayers chip in $7 — if interest is factored in, the federation says taxpayers chip in closer to $22. In total, MLA pensions cost taxpayers approximately $11 million each year.
Roughly 60 per cent of all Nova Scotia taxpayers do not have access to any kind of pension.
While Premier Darrell Dexter has said he is open to reviewing MLA pensions sometime in the next three years, deputy premier Frank Corbett said he could not give taxpayers a timeline for when the government would be ready to begin that review.
"The short answer is, we're not in a position to do that. It would be disingenuous to say the least," Corbett said. "It's in the talking stages within the government's caucus."
Lacey said the government needs to reduce its own benefits if it expects people to accept budget cuts to government programs.
"So far, political leaders have tried to put their head in the sand and hope this is going to go away but we've continued to fight to change these outrageous MLA pension programs because you can't have cuts on the one hand and on the other hand, have politicians receiving outrageous pension payouts," he said.