Nathan Cullen, the outgoing New Democrat MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley is leaving his job in Ottawa but will have a soft financial landing as he returns to private life.
Cullen’s severance comes to $89,000 and his annual MP pension is $82,000, or $4.1 million over his lifetime, according to a Nov. 1 news release from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF).
Under federal rules, Cullen can begin collecting the pension in eight years when he turns 55.
That release lists the severance and pension payments of the 94 MPs who didn’t run for re-election or who were defeated in the Oct. 21 poll.
There were 11 MPs from British Columbia on the list, including Cullen who is from Smithers.
Most outgoing MPs are eligible for either severance or a pension, but only those who served for several years are entitled to both, as Aaron Wudrick, Federal Director with the CTF told Lakes District News.
“Single-term MPs do not qualify for a pension (the minimum is six years of service to qualify) and so get a lump-sum payment of half their salary as severance,” Wudrick said.
One example of that is John Aidag, Liberal candidate for Cloverdale-Langley City who was elected in 2015 but lost to Conservative Tamara Jansen. He will receive $95,000 in severance but no pension.
Others, such as Joe Peschisolido, former one-term Liberal MP for Steveston-Richmond East who lost to Conservative Kenny Chiu won’t receive severance but will get $38,000 a year in pension, or $1.6 million over a lifetime.
At 56, Peschisolido is old enough to receive a pension so he doesn’t get severance.
Under federal rules, pensionable services done before Jan. 1, 2016 by an MP with six years of service can receive their pension as early as 55.
For MPs with six years of service accrued on or after Jan. 1, 2016, unreduced pensions can be received at age 65.
Taxpayers contribute less to MP pension plans than they did previously following reforms introduced by the Conservative government of Stephen Harper in 2012. Where before MPs put in just over $11,000 per year toward the pensions, by 2017 their contributions rose to $39,000.
That equates to 19.52 per cent of an MP’s pay as of Jan. 1, 2019, according to the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act. For average Canadians, 10.2 per cent of pay is set aside for pensions, with the employer and employee each paying half.
“Obviously, these pensions are still far more generous than most Canadians will ever see,” Wudrick said. “The improvement is that MPs (and Senators) must now carry much more of the freight in funding them.”
MPs who failed to be re-elected or who didn’t seek re-election can take advantage of a federal, taxpayer-funded transition program that offers up to $15,000 to help defeated MPs transition back to civilian life, according to the Members’ Allowances and Services guide published by the House of Commons.
The money can be used for career transition services, training, travel and other expenses.
Those same MPs and their immediate families are also entitled to have their relocation costs back to their hometowns from Ottawa covered by the government. Coverage includes travel and moving expenses for furniture, household items and pets. Those MPs have one year after they cease being MPs to make the move.
Cullen was first elected MP in the 2004 federal election and was re-elected in 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2015. He announced on March 1 of this year he wouldn’t run again, paving the way for Smithers mayor Taylor Bachrach to contest the seat, which he secured in the Oct. 21 vote.
Bachrach resigned his mayoral post on Nov. 3 and a new mayor will be elected in a byelection in 2020 now that Bachrach is on his way to Ottawa.