The Poor 1% in Ottawa
Isn’t it ironic that some of the loudest voices in Ottawa who are supposedly standing up for the rights, dignity and betterment of the poor are themselves members of the top 1% of wage collectors in the country? I speak, of course, of the NDP MPs who were swept to power last year by disillusioned voters in Quebec and other pockets across the country.
How do I figure? The top 1% of Canadians, by income, receive annual compensation of $169,000 or more. While base salary for a backbench MP is “only” $157,000, when you add in the $248,668 (!) average that taxpayers contribute each year to an MP’s pension plan (currently about $23.30 for every $1 contributed by the MP), the total compensation for the year comes to $405,668. This places the entry-level MP well above the $169,000 threshold of entry into the “1% Club”; in fact, it puts them ABOVE the average $404,000 received by others in that club, including the much-maligned CEOs of successful businesses.
Of course, the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, Committee Chairs, etc. do even better. Stephen Harper, if he were to retire at the next election, would be eligible to begin receiving—at age 55—an annual pension of $223, 517. In fact all MPs—who qualify for the platinum-plated pension after a mere 6 years in Ottawa—can retire with a full pension at age 55, unlike their fellow Canadians in the private sector who put them in office. Recent discussions about the demographic and funding challenges of the Old Age Pension have many seniors and soon-to-be seniors wondering how old they will have to be before they can stop punching a time clock and settle back for a well-deserved rest...if they make it that far.
Canadians—especially those concerned about the wage discrepancies between Joe Lunchbox and the CEO of his company—should also be asking themselves whether the men and women they sent to Ottawa really have their best interests at heart. Why should government employees (MPs and other public servants) be drawing a wage and accumulating a luxurious pension so much greater than that of the hard-working, tax-paying public whom they claim to represent?
Now would be a great time for the NDP leadership hopefuls to throw their lot in with the working families they claim to love and push the government to lower the wages and perks of all MPs. The pension plan would be the place to start. Proposing dollar-per-dollar matching contributions from the MP and the taxpayer would be a noble gesture. After that, the question should be asked: why should a back-bench MP be making $157,000 per year? Most of us would be happy making $100,000. Surely the NDP leadership hopeful who suggests a reduction in MP salaries would receive a round of applause from his or her fellow MPs? After all, they are for the little guy, are they not?
Of course, Mr. Harper and his fellow Conservatives could pre-empt this action and introduce and pass legislation reducing their own salaries, their own pensions and their own perks. This would be a good will gesture, signalling Canadians that they “feel our pain” and that they are leading by example. Canadians would be much more willing to help salvage Canada’s economy if they saw this kind of servant-leadership.
I’m not holding my breath but I will be watching to see if any MP has what it takes to set a new standard of personal sacrifice for the good of the country.