MP pension changes urged

With the federal government potentially eyeing changes to public sector pensions, there are new calls to alter the pensions that MPs receive.

For every dollar MPs put towards their pension, taxpayers contribute about $5

With the federal government potentially eyeing changes to public sector pensions, there are new calls to alter the pensions that members of Parliament receive.

Bill Robson  the president and CEO of the C.D. Howe Institute, an economic policy think-tank, says the pensions that MPs get are no example for the rest of the country to follow, adding "it undermines the federal government's authority when it comes to leading pension reform."

"The kind of pension plan we should be promising our leaders should be somewhere in the middle — more generous than what the ordinary Canadian currently gets, but less generous than what the MPs are currently promising themselves," Robson said.

Roughly a third of Canadians have an employer-supported pension, and some of those employers will match employee contributions dollar for dollar to help them save for their retirement.

However, for every dollar MPs put into their pension, taxpayers contribute about $5.

Additionally, according to regulations set decades ago, the MP pension fund must grow by 10 per cent every year regardless of what the markets are doing. That means taxpayers are on the hook for millions more.

At the end of the 2009-10 fiscal year — the last year for which there is data — Canadian taxpayers put almost $65 million toward MP pensions.

Gilles Duceppe, the former leader of the Bloc Québécois, is set to collect more than $140,000 a year from a country he spent his career trying to split up.

MPs are guaranteed a pension after six years in the House of Commons, meaning 32-year-old Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, who has served for seven years, is already sitting on an annual pension of $33,000, with room to grow.

Some MPs defended the pensions they get .

"If you compare the responsibilities of an MP with the regular marketplace, there's a pretty good balance," said NDP MP Wayne Marston.

"What I've always heard, the average career of MPs is five years. I think that's something to consider," Liberal MP Geoff Regan said.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has said that pension reform for the country's public sector employees could be part of his next budget.

"If one is going to make any sort of intelligent assessment of government spending in Canada, one has to look at the costs of remuneration, including benefits and pensions," Flaherty said earlier this week during a pre-budget consultation stop in Vancouver.

However, the finance minister also said MP pension changes are not  the government's decision, but rather that of the MP-led Board of Internal Economy.