Friday, January 27, 2006

Pigs Eating from the Trough

Former Liberal MP Pat O'Brien is upset over information published a few days ago by The Canadian Taxpayers Federation on retiring and recently defeated MPs' pensions. The CTF reminds us that every dollar paid by an MP toward their pension is matched by $4.00 of taxpayer's money. Let's be sure to remember the salaries of the beasts of prey are also paid by taxpayers. Doesn't matter if you don't consent to the rule of these vultures - the government holds the monopoly on force so resistance is futile.

Pat O'Brien says the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is wrong on two counts when it complains about pensions for retired or defeated MPs: They aren't "gold-plated" and the CTF's numbers are too high.

The just-retired MP for London-Fanshawe was reacting to a news release from the lobby group in which it decried the pensions and severance payments. "Shed no tears for retiring or defeated MPs," said CTF federal director John Williamson. "They are being well looked after by Canadian taxpayers."

The CTF wants MPs and the federal government to pay into a registered retirement savings plan with matching contributions instead of the pension scheme into which taxpayers put $4 for every $1 from MPs.

The organization says 66 retiring or defeated MPs will collect $74 million in cumulative pension payments. Aside from O'Brien, three others are from the London region: retired Liberal Rose-Marie Ur, Lambton-Kent-Middlesex; Jerry Pickard, retired Liberal from Chatham-Kent-Essex, and defeated Liberal Roger Gallaway, in Sarnia-Lambton.
As stated in the Canadian Taxpayer Federation's news release, what they provided was a "list of projected pension and severance payments." Actual pension and severance pay figures are protected under the Privacy Act although the formula for making a calculation is publically available. CTF did the math, which must have been challenging:
It's based on how many years an MP was in office before departing, multiplied by compounding interest rates that differ from one term to another, and multiplied again by annual salary, averaged over the five-year period during which the MP earned the most.
Pat remains unrepentent:
O'Brien said he makes no apologies for collecting a pension after his 12 years as an MP and he says the amount is appropriate -- but less than the $72,357 the CTF says he'll get based on his years of service and his role as a parliamentary secretary.

O'Brien said his official government printout shows he will receive $64,048.57 in annual pension payments.

"I wish the (CTF) number was right, quite frankly.

[..] He said he had to leave his teaching career to become an MP for 12 years and worked hard for his constituents. "I'm not in a financial position to decline the pension," he said. "I certainly make no apologies for accepting the pension I've earned."

He said if he had stayed in education and accepted increasing responsibilities along the way, "my pension would probably be in the same order or probably higher. So do I feel I have a gold-plated pension? No. I feel I have an appropriate pension that I've earned."
Let's not forget the $141,000 Pat made annually while ruling over the realm as an MP, nor the countless other benefits he received. Pat might quibble with me here and argue that prior to the significant raise MP's received in 2001, including many Liberal receipients, MP salaries were less, and so his salary wasn't as "gold-plated" as I am suggesting. But the tax-free allowance that MPs received prior to 2001 complicates any attempt to calculate the actual financial gains made by O'Brien. The allowance, meant as a expense allowance, was received by individual MPs whether or not they used the entire allowance for the purposes it was meant for. An article from 2000, written shortly after changes to the pension scheme, has more sordid details.

You didn't deserve a dime pal for promoting special interests and dipping into the public pot. I'm not surprised you quit your job as a teacher when so much more money was forthcoming.

A CBC article from back in September 2004, reporting on another proposed raise for MPs that thankfully did not pass, has a list of MPs' salaries throughout history.
1867: $600 + $6 per day
1901 : $1,500 + $10 per day
1920: $4,000 + $25 per day
1945: $4,000 + $25 per day + $2,000 allowance
1963 : $12,000 + $6,000 allowance
1981 : $32,700 + $14,400 allowance
1991: $64,400 + $21,300 allowance
2000 : $68,200 + $22,500 allowance
2001 : $131,400
Pat O'Brien would not be entitled to the pension he is currently looking forward to if he had worked as a teacher for a mere 12 years, nor would he have made as much annually. He "had to leave" his job because working as trough manager meant getting a lot more, for a lot less, and that was appealing no doubt, even though morally reprehensible.
In retirement, O'Brien has set up Pat O'Brien Consulting to provide political advice about Ottawa and London city hall, where he was a long-serving ward councillor before entering federal politics. He is also continuing his work with Vote Marriage Canada to push for an end to same-sex marriage legislation.
To whom is he marketing his services?? If the city hires him, we are doomed for sure.

Other recipients of massive entitlements were similarly hurt and offended and are reported to have contacted their human rights commission representative:
Ur is to receive a $68,718 pension, says the CTF.

She defended her pension after 12 years as an MP and the sacrifices she and her family had to make.

"For the taxpayer coalition it is easy to sit there and be a critic," she said. "They don't know the work that goes into that job . . . I didn't go into this for the pension."

Ur said she is upset when critics suggest MPs are "pigs at the trough" and feels that view will likely dissuade good candidates from coming forward.

Pickard said the CTF calculation of his pension at $81,890 was incorrect, but he declined to provide the correct amount. He said the CTF is also wrong on the contribution formula, because as a contributor he paid half and the government paid the other half. Pickard dismissed the taxpayer group as distorting the pension issue for its own self-serving ends.
Ur: problem is, your freely chosen 'sacrifices' force me to make certain 'sacrifices'. Contrary to your view that it's "easy" for the CTF to criticize, you're wrong: as the people who contribute to and work with the CTF are themselves taxpayers, I doubt they are laughing with glee as they read about the various schemes used to deprive them of their earnings. It is not at all easy to be on the receiving end of such banditry.

Pickard: government money is collectively stolen cash. Your contribution was paid for by unwilling serfs, twice over. There has been no 'distortion' of the pension issue. It was clearly stated by CTF that their calculations were estimates, and neither Pat O'Brien nor Ur are contesting the essential point which is that for each dollar an MP contributes to their pensions, the taxpayers are forced to match and exceed that sum.