Wednesday, April 23, 2014

MPs to debate pulling pensions

OTTAWA—The Commons is set to debate a bill this week that would revoke the pensions of MPs and senators convicted of indictable crimes.
Conservative MP John Williamson’s private member’s bill appears to have some momentum—at a time when three of his former Tory colleagues from the Senate are facing RCMP allegations.

Bill C-518 already has gotten the thumb’s up from Treasury Board president Tony Clement, and also appears to have the backing of the NDP.
Under the proposed legislation, any MP or senator convicted of an indictable offence that carries a minimum sentence of two years in prison only would keep what they put into the pension plan—losing the generous government contribution.
But while the offence must carry at least a two-year sentence, the convicted parliamentarian doesn’t need to have served that long to be penalized.
The penalty also would apply retroactively to conduct that occurred prior to June, 2013. The misdeeds need to have taken place at least in part while the person was serving in Parliament.
The proposal comes at a time when three senators and one former colleague are facing RCMP allegations related to their expense claims.
Suspended senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, and Patrick Brazeau, and recently-retired Sen. Mac Harb, have been the subject of police allegations of fraud and breach of trust, with Duffy also accused of bribery.
No charges have been laid in connection with any of the investigations and the allegations have not been tested in court.
But Williamson, former national director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said the inspiration for the bill came to him when former Liberal Senator Raymond Lavigne retired shortly after he was convicted of fraud and breach of trust in March, 2011.
“I remember the reaction of many Canadians who said, here’s a senator who’s been found guilty of breach of trust and is keeping his pension,” noted Williamson.
He added a similar law in Nova Scotia already has resulted in a convicted former provincial legislator losing his pension.
NDP leader Tom Mulcair sent an e-mail in response to a member of the public this fall saying the “NDP will support this legislation.”
“New Democrats welcome these changes,” Mulcair wrote in a copy of an e-mail obtained by The Canadian Press.
“However, we feel that this is a half-hearted attempt by the Conservative government to restore its reputation badly-damaged by the growing number of scandals on its watch,” he added.
The bill is scheduled for debate on the floor of the Commons tomorrow.

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