Pension Reforms Fast-tracked, Grits and NDP Claim Credit
By Matthew Little On October 19, 2012 @ 5:56 pm In National | No Comments
Members of Parliament will soon see their pensions move 10 years further away and their contributions rise, thanks to an all-party agreement to fast-track pension reforms through the House of Commons.
Both the Liberals and NDP have taken credit for the move, which saw MPs give unanimous consent to a Conservative motion to have a separate bill on MP pensions approved on Friday morning.
The fast-tracking paved the way for the bill to be sent directly to the senate for approval, bypassing second reading, committee study, a reporting stage, and third reading.
The Conservatives said the budget couldn’t be split. We proved that it could.
—NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen
But there is some confusion about how exactly the deal went down.
The Liberals proposed extracting pension reforms for MPs and public servants out from the government’s new omnibus budget implementation bill on Thursday, a move the Tories liked but the NDP opposed.
The NDP wanted only the pension reforms for MPs fast-tracked, while leaving the reforms to public service pensions in the bill to get further scrutiny in the house.
“The Conservatives were forced to accept our proposal to carve out the section of their omnibus bill on MP pensions and pass the new standalone bill immediately,” writes Kate Purchase, a staffer for interim Liberal leader Bob Rae.
Liberal MP Scott Brison also said it was a Liberal proposal to carve out the provisions on MP pension reforms.
However, NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen, as well as Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan, said the Liberals wanted all pension reforms fast-tracked whereas the NDP wanted the carve-out limited to MP pensions.
“The original Liberal proposal reflected what was in the legislation, the budget implementation bill, all public service pensions, including parliamentarians. That wasn’t acceptable to the NDP so we moved with just the MPs’ pensions,” said Van Loan.
Cullen repeated the same narrative.
“The proposal in front of us was to, as of this morning, not only divide our pensions out but also all public servants. It’s a two-and-a-half-billion-dollar question.
“We went back to the government and said that seems a bit rushed, to not have any negotiation on that, the civil servants, the RCMP, and all of the rest, so why not just take MPs’ and senators’ pensions out, send it over to the Senate.”
Cullen said the NDP would have preferred to have had MP pensions studied more thoroughly, but faced with them being bundled in the omnibus bill, this was a better option.
He rejected one reporter’s suggestion that, with the Liberals calling to fast-track the pension reforms and the government also interested in doing so, the NDP was almost forced to go along with the idea.
The NDP had blocked previous calls for unanimous consent on fast-tracking the reforms that included public servant pensions.
The Liberals have reportedly said including the public servant pensions was a typo. In his comments calling for the carve-out during question period Thursday, Liberal leader Bob Rae had only called for the fast-tracking of MP pension reforms.
With the MP pension issue dealt with, Cullen was already turning his gaze toward the next battle, the budget bill as a whole. Cullen said that extracting the pension provisions proves that aspects of the bill can be taken out and dealt with separately.
“If we can do it for MPs’ and senators’ pensions, why not for the environment, why not for protecting our lakes and rivers? We’ve proven the model. Let’s go forward and actually make this thing work,” Cullen said.
We’re always willing to talk with other parties about if they want to see things passed through quickly.
—Government House Leader Peter Van Loan
“The Conservatives said the budget couldn’t be split. We proved that it could.”
But for other sections of the omnibus bill to be carved out, there has to be a deal to fast-track them through Parliament, Van Loan said.
“We had an opportunity here to have that proceed through the House of Commons with unanimous consent, and we were pleased to be able to do it,” said Van Loan, adding he was not aware of any other portion of the budget that other parties wanted to grant unanimous consent to pass through all stages.
“We’re always willing to talk with other parties about if they want to see things passed through quickly.”
But the opposition parties don’t want other sections of the budget extracted in order to fast-track them through Parliament. Rather, they want them separated from the omnibus bill so that they can be studied more thoroughly and so that MPs will not be forced to vote for a bundle of legislation, some of which they support, and some of which they oppose.
The changes will see MP contribution rates to their pensions raised to a dollar-for-dollar ratio with the portion contributed by taxpayers, though none of those contributions will be invested, meaning taxpayers will foot the bill for the 10 percent interest given to those contributions.
Public servants currently enjoy a 30-70 contribution ratio, with taxpayers contributing more than double their own pension contribution.
MPs will also see their retirement age raised from 55 to 65, while public servants would have seen their retirement age raised from 60 to 65.
Though the MP pension reforms will soon be passed, they won’t affect MPs significantly for several years, and MPs who retire before 2015 can still begin claiming their pension at 55.
The government says MP pension contributions will climb from just over $11,000 a year to just under $39,000 by the time the new reforms are phased in completely in 2017.
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