Thursday, May 23, 2013

Canada's Double Dipping Senators

Like the mainstream media and the nation's televised political pundits, I've taken a few swipes at the denizens of the Red Chamber lately, particularly as possible misspending of Canadians' hard-earned tax dollars by various Senators has finally seen the light of day.  One issue that has not been covered is what I'm terming "double dipping" by many of Canada's Senators, largely because it is legal.  By double dipping, I'm referring to the fact that Senators avail themselves of $135,200 worth of base salary annually on top of their Canada Pension Plan payments.  While this practise is perfectly legal, somehow it seems immoral to me that Senators' taxpayer-funded base salary is twice the size of a median Canadian household income, yet, they are still able to collect Canada pension for the 10 to 15 year period between when they turn 60 or 65 and their mandatory retirement age of 75.

Fortunately, thanks to the Senate Ethics Officer's website, Senators are forced to publicly declare their sources of income that are greater than $2000 annually on their Public Disclosure Summaries.  For your illumination and after a very tedious two hours of hunting, here are the Senators that are double dipping by collecting their hefty salary in addition to CPP or other government pension:

George Baker
Lynn Beyak
David Braley
Bert Brown
Catherine Callbeck (in addition, PEI MLA Pension)
Romeo Dallaire (RRQ) 
Joseph Day
Pierre De Bane
Norman Doyle (Newfoundland and Labrador MLA Pension)
Nicole Eaton
Celine Hervieux-Payette (RRQ)
Colin Kenny (a "pension from the Government of Canada")
Hector Lang (Yukon Legislative Assembly Retirement Pension)
Ghislain Maltais (RRQ and Quebec MNA Pension)
Elizabeth Marshall (Newfoundland and Labrador MLA Pension)
Elaine McCoy (in addition, Alberta MLA Pension)
Paul McIntyre
Pana Merchant
Grant Mitchell (Alberta MLA Pension)
Wilfred Moore
Jim Munson
Richard Neufeld (a "pension from the Government of Canada")
Kelvin Kenneth Ogilvie
Donald Oliver
Dennis Patterson
Nancy Greene Raine
Jean-Claude Rivest (Quebec MNA Pension)
Fernand Robichaud
Robert Runciman
Nancy Ruth
Asha Seth
Nick Sibbeston
David Smith
Betty Unger

In case you lost count, that's a total of 26 Senators or 25 percent of the total that collect CPP, excluding those who collect RRQ (the Quebec equivalent of the CPP) or other legislative pensions.  If you include those that collect RRQ, you end up with 27.6 percent of Senators who are double dipping.

Where Senators were not specific about the exact type of their"government pension", I made the assumption that if they were over the age of 65, it was quite likely that the incompletely described government pension was CPP.   Senators Doyle, Lang, Marshall, Mitchell and Rivest do not collect CPP, rather, they have provincial legislative pensions at this point in time, however, this means that they are also "suckling at the teat" of provincial taxpayers one way or another.  

Please note that, under federal law, unlike Old Age Security payments, CPP is not subject to clawback so each Senator is entitled to collect and keep the entire amount.  For 2013, that amount is $1012.50 per month; while not huge in terms of overall government spending, it's the morality of the issue that I question.

There are two ways to fix this issue:

1.) Senators must forgo their Canada Pension payments during their term as Senators since they are amply rewarded for their modest efforts by Canadian taxpayers.

2.) The cutoff age for serving as a Senator should be lowered to 65 years of age.  If it is deemed legally impossible to prevent Senators from double dipping, at least they would only be able to double dip for a maximum of five years if they begin to collect CPP at age 60.

Along with many millions of Canadian voters, I agree that it's long past time that the Harper government put Senate reform on the front burner.  While double dipping is technically legal, I would suggest that it is technically immoral.

Oh yes, and just in case you still feel sorry for our "under-compensated Senators", a heft percentage of them serve as corporate directors on more than one board for which they receive unspecified compensation.

Before I close this posting, I want to editorialize for a moment.  The entire Senate debacle could have been fixed very early on if our esteemed Prime Minister had admitted that he made a mistake in appointing Mr. Duffy as a Senator for the province of Prince Edward Island when it became clear that a summer cottage was not his permanent home and that he was not a resident of the province, a fact that has long been obvious to most Canadians.  This whole issue would have gone away and, by now, would have been long forgotten.  Unfortunately, our Prime Minister is not in the business of admitting his frailties, a character flaw that is now haunting him.  Fortunately or unfortunately depending on your viewpoint, Ottawa is now consumed with this story; rather than getting about the business of the nation, our elected officials are now wasting their political capital on finger-pointing.

Mr. Harper's statement that he "did not know...and was not consulted" on the $90,000 payment to Mr. Duffy does not particularly sit well with many Canadians.  Mr. Harper has a reputation as a micromanager; nothing transpires at the PMO without his knowledge or guidance.  This leaves Canadians feeling that they have one of two choices in this matter:

1.) Mr. Harper is guilty of a sin of commission (i.e. he directed Mr. Wright to pay Mr. Duffy's bill).

2.) Mr. Harper is guilty of a sin of omission (i.e. he directed Mr. Wright to make the problem go away but that he (Mr. Harper) did not want to know the details of the "operation" so that he (Mr. Harper) would not be culpable).

Either way, politicos in Ottawa have no one to blame for the growing skepticism from the voting public.  Perhaps if our MPs and their affiliates were a bit less inclined to use subtleties of language to distort the truth on a regular basis, Canadians would be more inclined to believe them over the important things.

All that said, on the upside, maybe we'll finally see the end of a useless Parliamentary appendage.  Sober second thought my ass.  When these august individuals can't even figure out their own expense forms, they should not be trusted with complex legislation, should they?


  1. While Canadians are in the mood for housecleaning at the Senate, how about first abolishing the Office of the Senate Ethics Officer? It's difficult to imagine, even among all these dreadful parasites, a more useless and ineffective function. We would probably have a stroke if we knew her salary, and the cost of her whole staff, accommodation, etc.