05/06/2013 05:11 EDT | Updated 07/06/2013 05:12 EDT

Nova Scotia MLAs convicted of serious crimes would lose pensions under new law

HALIFAX - The Nova Scotia government would have the power to collect money taken from the province by members of the legislature who are convicted of a serious indictable offence.

Deputy premier Frank Corbett says amendments to the Members' Retiring Allowances Act introduced Monday would mean the province can go after all of the cash taken improperly from taxpayers.

Corbett says the legislation was created in response to the conviction of three members of the legislature in the wake of an expense scandal in 2010.

He says the law would also close a loophole that allows members to keep their pensions if they resign or leave politics before the end of a criminal trial.

Corbett says under the new law, a member of the legislature would be reimbursed for the amount they had paid in, but their right to a full pension would be forfeited.

The amendments apply to a member of the legislature convicted of a crime with a maximum sentence of five or more years in jail.

"It's been a loophole. We've closed it. Now, going forward, people will know what the rules are," Corbett said in an interview.

Russell MacKinnon, a former Liberal member of the legislature, pleaded guilty to breach of trust in March, after admitting to submitting nearly $11,000 in false expense claims.

Former Liberal Dave Wilson served four months in jail last year for defrauding the public purse of nearly $61,000.

Richard Hurlburt, a former Progressive Conservative cabinet minister, was sentenced to a year of house arrest after pleading guilty to charges of fraud and breach of trust.

All three left their political jobs prior to trial and are entitled to their pensions.

Trevor Zinck, a former New Democrat who sits as an Independent, is scheduled to stand trial in June on expense-related charges.