Don Meredith eligible for pension because he resigned, avoided expulsion

Don Meredith is eligible to collect his parliamentary pension because he resigned before facing an expulsion vote.

Former Toronto-area senator officially resigned Wednesday

Former senator Don Meredith is eligible to collect a pension when he reaches the age of 60 now that he has resigned from the Red Chamber. (Colin Perkel/Canadian Press)

Don Meredith is eligible to collect his parliamentary pension because he resigned from the Senate before facing an expulsion vote, Treasury Board officials say.

If Meredith had been expelled — a motion his former colleagues were set to vote on in the coming days — he would have had to forgo future pension payments, but would have had contributions he made to the plan reimbursed.

His resignation became official Wednesday as Gov. Gen. David Johnston received a hard copy of his resignation letter and sent it on to the Red Chamber to begin the process of removing Meredith from the membership list, recouping Senate resources, and vacating his office.

If the Conservatives are looking to blame someone for Senator Meredith's pension, they should look at themselves in the mirror.- Scott Brison , Treasury Board president

Senate Speaker George Furey's office told CBC News that Meredith's name has been removed from the Senate and Library of Parliament websites. He is now officially considered a former senator.

'Ignorant of Senate policy'

Conservative Senator Leo Housakos, the chair of the powerful internal economy committee, called on Treasury Board President Scott Brison to block future pension payments to the disgraced senator — a request that was dismissed by Brison Wednesday.

"Senator Housakos is either ignorant of Senate policy and the law that governs this, which is an act of Parliament, or he's spinning this," Brison told reporters in the foyer of the House of Commons.

Treasury Board President Scott Brison says Don Meredith's Senate pension is government by law, won't say whether he can do anything about it. 0:36

The Nova Scotia cabinet minister said pensions are governed not by Treasury Board policy, but by legislation amended by the former Conservative government: the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act.

As per the legislation, if a parliamentarian resigns and has at least six years of pensionable service, they are entitled to receive a pension.

Any changes to the act would require a legislative amendment by Parliament, but Brison said changes could not be applied retroactively to Meredith.

Meredith, 52, reached the magic number a few months ago, in December 2016, six years after his appointment by former prime minister Stephen Harper. The former Toronto-area senator will collect approximately $24,000 annually starting at age 60, according to calculations provided to CBC News by the Senate in March.

"The Conservatives are trying to deflect from their responsibility and prime minister Harper's responsibility for naming Senator Meredith. If the Conservatives are looking to blame someone for Senator Meredith's pension, they should look at themselves in the mirror," Brison said.

All public service pensions follow a set formula and are not subject to an evaluation by Treasury Board officials, Peter Harder, the government's representative in the Senate, said in an interview, and to suggest otherwise is simply playing politics.

Meredith will be given roughly two months to clean out his office on Parliament Hill. He can also retain staff members to help him wind down his Senate activities. There are currently two people still working in his office, Nicole Waldron, his executive assistant, and Raul Romero, a parliamentary affairs adviser.

"The procedures that would apply to any retiring senator will apply to his office, and the removal of his effects and staff," Harder said.

The former senator will also be able to make use of the Senate travel program, allowing him to fly back and forth between Toronto and Ottawa during that period at taxpayers' expense.

'I doubt there will be a farewell party'

Harder said he felt "relief" when he heard Meredith offered to resign. "I doubt there will be a farewell party."

He said the Senate afforded Meredith due process through its ethics investigation, and the subsequent committee study into his relationship with a teenage girl.

Harder said it is now up to the ethics committee to decide if it wants Lyse Ricard, the Senate ethics officer, to continue her investigation into a separate workplace harassment complaint against Meredith. According to the rules, investigations are permanently suspended against a former senator unless specifically requested by the committee.

When asked if he thought there is a culture of harassment in the Senate, Harder said no.

"All senators want to assure our staff that they have a voice and we will take seriously any concerns and assure our staff that we have appropriate systems, and adequate safeguards for a workplace harassment."

About the Author

John Paul Tasker

Parliamentary Bureau

John Paul (J.P.) Tasker is a reporter in the CBC's Parliamentary bureau in Ottawa. He can be reached at john.tasker@cbc.ca.