MPs vote to increase their pension contributions
- Published on Monday, October 29, 2012
By: Kate Jackman-Atkinson
On Oct. 19, MPs from all parties managed to agree on one thing, reform for their own pensions. The MP pension reform bill was split from the government’s broader budget bill, Bill C-45 and was passed with unanimous consent of the House.
The bill will move pension contributions for MPs and senators towards at 50-50 cost sharing model.
Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette MP Robert Sopuck explained that over the next five years, contributions to the plan made by MPs will rise from $11,000 to $40,000 per year.
Reforming pensions for MPs and senators has long been called for by taxpayers, especially during the recent tougher economic times. Sopuck said it was an issue the government felt strongly about changing and added that he’s “proud to be part of the government” making those changes. The changes also include significants reforms to the Prime Minister’s pension which will cost Stephen Harper and future PMs over $1 million.
While the high pension benefits claimed by many retired MPs has been a frequent topic of conversation, not all former MPs are enjoying rich benefits. Sopuck did note that his research has shown that 43 per cent of MP leave parliament with no pension for reasons such as only serving one term in office.
The original reforms proposed by C-45 included similar changes to the pensions of newly hired public service workers. This portion of the bill wasn’t separated and is still before the House, however, if all of the pension changes are passed, these measures will save taxpayers $2.6 billion over the next five years.
Bill C-45 also includes changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which dates back to the late 1800s. The act was originally created to protect navigation and give the federal government a say in any projects or actions that would impact navigation. Sopcuk explains that the act is “absolutely not environmental [legislation]”.
Sopuck explains that the problem with the act in its current state is that judges decided what was considered “navigable waters” and the act was applied to smaller and smaller bodies of water.
Ultimately, any body of water big enough to float a canoe on was deemed Navigable Water making it difficult for projects such as bridges, docks or dams to be built by property owners and governments.
The act is its current form has caused numerous problems for local governments. Sopuck explained that one municipality in his constituency had three culverts washed out by flooding last year. He explains the Navigable Waters become involved and ordered that costly bridges be built to replace the culverts.
When passed, the new act, called the Navigation Protection Act, will outline specific named waterways to be protected. In Manitoba, these will include Lake Winnipeg, Lake Manitoba, Lake Winnipegosis, the Assiniboine River, the Red River and Winnipeg River.
Contrary to claims by environmental groups, Sopuck says that the changes won’t have a negative impact on the environment, “I don’t see how it can,” he said. All of the various environmental standards still apply to projects undertaken on bodies of water, whether they are deemed navigable or not.
Additionally, he pointed to the new Fisheries Act which gives the Minister power to dictate to what standards a structure must be built in any bodies of water that support a commercial fishery.
The rest of Bill C-45 remains before the House.