Members of Parliament should be under the same pension schemes as other Canadians.
That’s the message Jordan Bateman, director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation B.C., delivered Wednesday morning when he and Michael Dunn, Canadian Taxpayers Federation administrator, unveiled a billboard on the Island Highway north of Nanaimo.
The billboard and others like it across Canada are designed to drum up public support to pressure the federal government to shut down the current pension plan for members of parliament and replace it with an RRSP-style pension plan.
The billboards encourage Canadians to text “TAX” to 212121, so they can sign the federation’s petition, e-mail the prime minister and learn more about the MP pension plan.
The taxpayers federation has fought for pension reform since it formed in 1990.
“I feel like we’re finally hitting a turning point,” Bateman said. “I think the Conservative government’s going to make a decision this fall. We want these pensions taken away or ratcheted down to a level that’s much fairer for taxpayers.”
Currently taxpayers contribute $24 for every $1 MPs pay into their pension funds, according to the federation.
“These pensions aren’t invested in any interest funds, they’re not invested in big companies like most pensions are,” Bateman said.
According to the federation, in 2010-11 MPs and senators contributed a combined $4.5 million into parliamentary pension accounts while taxpayers kicked in $110 million, which included $26.7 million in contributions and $84 million in interest and actuarial adjustments.
The current pension scheme would pay Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney an estimated pension of more than $75,000 annually or about $1.4 million by age 80 if he were to leave parliament in 2015.
The federation also wants to see legislation that would ensure parliamentarians convicted of offenses relating to their offices are barred from collecting parliamentary pension benefits.
Lunney said he did not get into politics for a pension and that reforms could be coming this fall.
“I ran hoping to make a difference and I’ve been working on that for 12 years now,” Lunney said. “The demands on an MP’s time are way beyond anything most ever imagined and, that said, it is a pleasure serving my constituents. To the issue, there will be a reform package discussed early in the new session when we get back. It will be one of the first things addressed and there will be changes introduced accordingly.”
The federation erected six billboards in Nanaimo, Vancouver, Calgary, Regina, Ottawa and Halifax.