TORONTO - All three parties welcomed a decision Friday by former New Democrat Joe Cimino to turn down $58,000 in severance that he was entitled to receive after serving just five months in the Ontario legislature.
"I have notified human resources with the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that I have no intention of accepting the severance allowance that was afforded me," Cimino said in a statement.
Cimino shocked everyone, including fellow New Democrats, when he quit suddenly in late November, citing personal issues for resigning the seat he won June 12.
All members of provincial parliament are eligible for six months' severance pay for any term under four years, but Cimino said he had no idea he would entitled to such a large payout.
"I was unaware that I would be eligible for any severance upon my resignation as MPP until after I resigned in writing, and was notified of the entitlement," he said. "As such, I did not plan on the funds when making the very difficult decision that I did."
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath admitted a $58,000 severance after five months' work would raise a lot of eyebrows among taxpayers.
"I'm pleased to hear that Joe did the right thing and decided not to take the severance package," said Horwath. "We respect his need to put his family and his health first."
Liberals and Conservatives also praised Cimino's decision, saying the severance packages are meant for politicians who are defeated, not for those who quit after just a few months on the job.
"In this unique circumstance, I would commend him for doing the right thing," said Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid.
"I do personally applaud Joe," said Progressive Conservative Bill Walker. "I think that he has done what he feels right in his heart, and as long as he's happy with it then I think that's good."
All three parties have agreed to look at changing the rules for severance pay after learning about Cimino's eligibility, but Duguid said the payouts are meant to compensate for the fact MPPs do not have a pension plan.
"It'd be nice if people knew that we don't, because I think they assume we have these gold plated pensions," he said.
Horwath agreed the severance criteria for provincial politicians should be changed to prevent any situations similar to Cimino's in the future.
"I look forward to seeing any legislation the goverment brings forward to review the rules around severance for MPPs," she said.
Premier Kathleen Wynne has until May 20 to call a byelection in Sudbury, which could cost Ontario taxpayers up to $500,000.
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