FOULDS: Still awaiting an original opinion on penthouse pension plan
Less than a year ago, there was much speculation about which Conservative MPs would make the cut and be part of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s new cabinet.
Cathy McLeod’s name surfaced, with B.C. Conservative Leader John Cummins opining the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP was “bright, articulate and experienced.”
That she is and, one could argue, an improvement over her predecessor, Betty Hinton, if only for the fact McLeod walked into the job without the airs of a person who knew it all and knew what was best for the minions.
Cummins also remarked that McLeod “has opinions and is not afraid to express them.”
I wrote then that Cummins was almost on the mark, that our MP had opinions she was not afraid to express, but had become a politician whose public opinions revealed nothing deeper than what any voter could learn from reading Conservative pamphlets and websites for policy information.
Much of my criticism aimed at McLeod came from her refusal to express an original opinion on MP pensions when asked by KTW reporter Jeremy Deutsch.
Then, in May of last year, as now, the gluttony of MP pensions — funded by taxpayers who cannot hope for such a get-rich-quick scheme in their own jobs — was in the news as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation detailed the obscenity of six years of service resulting in an annual pension not far off from what the average Canadian struggles to earn via 40-hour work weeks.
Not only do our MPs enjoy a penthouse pension funded by a public with pauper pensions in comparison, MPs are secure in the knowledge their post-career windfall is guaranteed.
Unlike the great unwashed, the pensions of MPs are not subject to the volatility of the market as their cash comes solely from the pockets of taxpayers, not from how stocks perform.
So, as the debate continued on whether Canadian MPs should enjoy such a lucrative pension plan, particularly when the economy was crashing and burning and private pension plans were suffering, we decided to ask McLeod a simple question: Do you think the pension plan is fair, considering MPs contribute a mere dollar, while taxpayers shell out much, much more?
(How much more is a constant debate. The federal government states taxpayers pay $5.80 for every dollar MPs contribute, while the Canadian Taxpayers Federation argues the taxpayer portion is actually much more, as much as $23 by its calculation. Regardless, even the lowball figure of $5.80 is $4.80 too much).
A year ago, McLeod’s answer: “I won’t speak to the pension issue specifically. We need to be looking across government in terms of what we’re doing and where we’re going and how we’re going to get back to a balanced budget.”
This month, the CTF unveiled more information on the bloated pension scheme funded by taxpayers faced with higher taxes and fees in a variety of areas and, on average, pulling in a salary a fraction of that enjoyed by MPs.
The CTF has estimated McLeod, after six years in office, or by the next federal election in 2015, will be eligible to receive an annual pension of $35,385.
Based on this information, we asked McLeod again: Do you think the pension plan is fair, considering MPs contribute a mere dollar, while taxpayers shell out much, much more?
McLeod’s answer: “I would really like to read the report because you’re giving me a number that I have no idea.”
When asked whether she thought such pension amounts were fair, assuming the CTF numbers were correct, McLeod again refused to give an opinion.
Well, it has been almost two weeks since we spoke to our MP on the issue. Perhaps she has read the report. Perhaps she has had her staff contact the appropriate departments in Ottawa to determine precisely what her pension will be after six years on the job.
We will contact McLeod later this week to get an update — and, fingers crossed, likely in futility, a personal opinion on whether that amount is fair.