Nova Scotia

MLA pension review to be chaired by ex-judge

The Speaker of the Nova Scotia legislature says a retired judge will chair a three-person panel to review MLA pensions.

The Speaker of the Nova Scotia legislature says a retired judge will chair a three-person panel reviewing MLA pensions.

Gordie Gosse said he met with house leaders from all three provincial parties on Wednesday and they agreed that legislative members will have no part in selecting the panel or figuring out its terms of reference. That means all MLA pay and perks are potentially up for review.

"It can be salaries, it can be whatever. Whatever they come back with, that's what it'll be," Gosse told reporters.

Gosse said he has a list of three retired judges and he is in the process of contacting them to see who is available to head the panel. That person will be responsible for selecting two citizens to round out the three-person panel.

"I had said all along it was going to be an independent citizen's panel and this is the best way to deal with this issue," he said.

"No MLA or current MLAs or retired MLAs will be involved in this whatsoever."

Once the panel is formed, it will have six months before it must report to the legislature with recommendations.

Those recommendations will not be binding, Gosse said, and it will be up to the legislature to make the final decision.

The opposition Progressive Conservatives had been pushing to ensure the pension panel didn't include past or current elected officials, while the Liberals wanted pay scales reviewed as well.

Progressive Conservative house leader Chris d'Entremont, who attended the meeting with Gosse, said his party was in agreement on how to proceed.

"This is the approach that our party's leader, Jamie Baillie, insisted would be a requirement for our party's support," d'Entremont said in a news release.

The pension plan of Nova Scotia MLAs has been criticized by many, including the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, for being too generous.

The plan allows provincial 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.

With files from The Canadian Press