POLITICS

Jeannot Volpe, Former New Brunswick Politician: Pension Cut A Breach Of Human Rights

03/20/2012 04:21 EDT | Updated 05/20/2012 05:12 EDT
FREDERICTON - A former Conservative member of the New Brunswick legislature is trying to fight a cut in his pension at the province's Human Rights Commission.

Jeannot Volpe says members of the house who lost their seats in the 2010 provincial election or decided not to seek re-election are being unfairly affected by a retroactive claw back of their pension benefits.

Last year, the provincial government reversed a 2008 decision that increased pensions for members of the legislature.

In 2008, the legislature voted to eliminate two tax-free allowances they received and increase their base salaries to $85,000 from $45,000 a year. Since pensions are based on salary, their pensions also increased.

Volpe, who represented the riding of Madawaska-Les-Lac, said he decided to retire from politics in 2010 at the age of 60 and made numerous financial commitments based on a pension of almost $54,000 a year that he expected to receive.

"Under that belief I received my document from government. To me it was a contract when they said this is how much money you'll be getting and that money is vested, it is in your fund and this is how much you'll be getting each and every year," Volpe said Tuesday.

He said the government's changes are retroactive to when he was elected in 1995 and mean his pension has been reduced to about $36,000 each year.

He said if the changes were simply retroactive to 2008 he would only have taken a $3,000 cut in his annual pension.

Volpe said the changes don't affect civil servants and he wants the human rights commission to examine the case because he believes no one should be treated differently because they are a politician.

"What about all the other civil servants? What about all the other pensions we have in this province? Why is it different?"

He says eight to 10 other politicians might also file similar complaints.

A spokesman for the Human Rights Commission would not confirm if any complaints had been filed and a spokesman for Premier David Alward said the government could not comment on any case before the commission.

Volpe said as a former politician, he doesn't expect to get much public support in the fight for his pension.

"That's fine with me," he said. "All I'm saying is that I still have some rights. I'm still a New Brunswick citizen."