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'Gold-plated' pensions a balm for election losers

Surrey-Cloverdale B.C. Liberal MLA Kevin Falcon, who ran but failed to beat out Christy Clark for the party leadership, is among the retiring politicians who now receive generous pensions. - Black Press file photo
Surrey-Cloverdale B.C. Liberal MLA Kevin Falcon, who ran but failed to beat out Christy Clark for the party leadership, is among the retiring politicians who now receive generous pensions.
— image credit: Black Press file photo

A long list of departing MLAs – both Liberals and New Democrats – are now in line for lucrative pensions, whether they retired voluntarily or were defeated at the polls.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation estimates the total payouts to MLAs who didn't win or seek re-election could top $26 million. The government injects $4 for every dollar politicians contribute, and the resulting pensions are also inflation adjusted.

"The MLA pension payout ATM is spitting out cash at a rate taxpayers can only dream of," CTF B.C. director Jordan Bateman said. "A dozen former MLAs will soon join the million-dollar pension club – while most of us are scraping together every nickel we can find for our own retirements."

Departing NDP MLAs in the Lower Mainland and their estimated payouts to age 80 include: Surrey-Fleetwood NDP MLA Jagrup Brar ($555,000), Delta North NDP MLA Guy Gentner ($500,000), Coquitlam-Maillardville's Diane Thorne ($461,000) and Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge MLA Michael Sather ($490,000). Several others, including Port Moody-Coquitlam by-election winner Joe Trasolini, get nothing because they have less than the six years of service required to qualify.

Outgoing Liberal MLAs include: Gordon Campbell in Vancouver-Point Grey ($1.7 million),  Colin Hansen in Vancouver-Quilchena ($1.54 million), Barry Penner in Chilliwack-Hope ($1.35 million), Kevin Falcon in Surrey-Cloverdale ($1.09 million), Randy Hawes in Abbotsford-Mission ($847,000), Harry Bloy in Burnaby-Lougheed ($720,000), Chilliwack's John Les ($835,000), Surrey-Tynehead's Dave Hayer ($824,000) and Joan McIntyre in West Vancouver-Sea to Sky ($568,000).

Defeated Abbotsford independent John Van Dongen, who served for years as a B.C. Liberal, exits with a pension valued at $1.48 million.

First-year payouts range from $30,000 to as much as $98,000 in Campbell's case.

Exiting MLAs also get up to 15 months of severance at the $101,859 MLA annual salary and includes a top-up if the politician takes a job at less than six figures. They're also eligible for up to $9,000 in "training" funds.

"Not only do these MLAs receive overly generous pensions, they get a severance package and training money," Bateman said. "Taxpayers are on the hook for millions just to transition these politicians back to the real world."

He noted the B.C. Liberals ran against "gold-plated" pensions in 1996 and then NDP premier Glen Clark brought in a fairer, dollar-for-dollar system. But the Liberals in 2007 brought back ultra-generous pensions and let MLAs buy back missing years of service.

The CTF didn't include Premier Christy Clark in its calculation, but says if she doesn't get a seat elsewhere her lifetime pension would be $1.03 million.

Surrey's Jagrup Brar was one of the defeated NDP MLAs who will now receive a pension estimated to be worth $555,000. Brar is pictured above in January of 2012, when he agreed to live on welfare for a month.

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