08/29/2012 10:17 EDT | Updated 10/29/2012 05:12 EDT

Taxpayer Advocate Rips B.C. MLA Pensions


Kevin Falcon may be leaving provincial politics, but according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the just-retired B.C. Finance Minister will eventually be taking an unseemly amount of taxpayer money with him.

“Kevin Falcon, after 12 years of service to British Columbians in the legislature, will begin retired life at age 65 with a pension of about $63,000 a year,” said the federation’s B.C. Director, Jordan Bateman.

For Bateman, Falcon is just the tip of the financial iceberg.

In 1996, the NDP provincial government implemented a pension plan where, for every $1 the MLA put in, taxpayers would put $1 in as well.

But in 2007, the ruling B.C. Liberals brought in a pension plan where for every $1 an MLA contributes, taxpayers contribute $4.

MLAs qualify for the pension after six years in office. The numbers the CTF quotes represent what former members would collect at 65. But they can start collecting at age 60 instead, for a reduced amount.

Either way, many recently retiring Liberals can look forward to hefty payouts, Bateman said:

- Former premier Gordon Campbell will get a pension that starts at $98,000 a year.

- Retiring Speaker Bill Barisoff, of Penticton, will start at about $91,000 a year.

- Former cabinet minister Iain Black, who quit last year, had just six years service and will collect about $30,000 to start.

- NDP MLA Michael Sather, in office for eight years, would collect $28,500.

"[It’s] sort a reverse-Robin Hood, where taxpayers strapped for cash, who are scrimping and saving for their own retirements, trying to claw some money together for when we retire, are busy sending boatloads of money towards public sector unions, politicians and senior executives," Bateman said.

But Jim Sinclair, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, says the average public sector pension is $18,000 a year.

Sinclair said the CTF’s fight to cut the average pension is like engaging in a race to the bottom.

“Get rid of all pensions and work till we're 80 and everything will be fine,” said Sinclair, mocking what he sees as the CTF’s argument.

Sinclair said the answer is for everyone to have a reasonable pension plan.

In addition to the generous pension plan, which is indexed to inflation, B.C. MLAs also receive 15-months severance pay whether they quit or are defeated in an election.

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