Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Canada's Senate - Nice Work If You Can Get It

Updated April 2016

With Canada's Senators making the news on a reasonably regular basis, I wanted to revisit a bit of background about the Senate, showing how much this august body of individuals costs Canadian taxpayers and how many days they actually spend "proofreading" legislation that comes to them from the House of Commons.

Let's start with the compensation received by Canada's senators as shown on this screen capture from the Parliament of Canada website:

While a base salary of $145,400 annually won't make Canada's senators wealthy, it's slightly less than twice what a median Canadian household earns in a year ($76,000 in 2013).  It is interesting to note that on April 1, 2016, senators received a raise of $3,00o or 2.1 percent for their efforts and that they have received a raise every year since 2012.

On top of their salaries, senator's travel expenses are also covered.  This is one issue that has become quite public in light of the Pamela Wallin issue where it is unclear whether she was billing her private travel to the public purse.  Normally, senatorial travel expenses are covered under the federal government's "64 point" travel system which provides each senator with the same access to travel no matter how far they live from Ottawa.  Here is a brief explanation of the "64 point" system:

The number of points used for a particular trip will vary with both the departure and destination locations, how many days of travel are involved and the mode of travel used by the senator.  A single point is deducted for every trip to Ottawa no matter how many days are spent either at the point of origin or in Ottawa.  Senators can also deduct one-quarter of a point for travel within their region by car.  Unlike the rest of us who generally travel by ourselves for business, according to the Senators' Travel Policy, senators can appoint a designated traveller which can include spouses or children.  According to Section 2.9.1 of the policy, senators, their designated travellers and dependent children may travel in business class; all other travellers who accompany the senator are to travel in cattle class.  After all, why sully yourselves travelling with the sweaty masses?

Let's look at an example.  Here are the total quarterly expenses, including travel, for the current Speaker of the Senate, Pierre Claude Nolin, who was appointed to the Senate to represent the province of Quebec by Brian Mulroney in June 1993:

Please note that these expenses are for the three month period from December 1, 2014 to February 2, 2015 only.  While the Harper government likes to tout its newfound proactive openness, you will notice that there are absolutely no details about what the expenses claimed covered.
Senators also benefit from the taxpayer-funded fully-indexed gold-plated pension plan that is the benefit of all Members of Parliament who serve for six years or more.  In 2012 - 2013, the average annual senator pension was $67,461.  A 2012 study by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation showed that for every $1.00 that senators paid toward their pension fund, Canadian taxpayers contributed $23.30.  This meant that in 2009 - 2010, taxpayers contributed $248,668 for each senator's pension.  As of April 2010, 20 former senators were collected an annual pension in excess of $70,000.  On top of that, Canada's senators are entitled to collect Canada Pension Plan payments.

Now, let's look at the number of days that the Senate sits in 2016:

Lastly, let's look at the bottom line.  According to the latest version of the Financial Statements of The Senate of Canada for the year ending March 31, 2015, here is the total cost of the Senate to Canada's taxpayers for fiscal 2015:

The total net cost of operations for one year was $101.933 million or an average of $970,790 for each of Canada's 105 senators including those who for one reason or another, did not sit for all of fiscal 2015.  

It's a pretty sweet deal being a Canadian senator.  You work a handful of days every month, take all of July and August off along with another month over Christmas and two weeks over Easter and spend your days putting in time on various meaningless committees and rubber stamping legislation that is hand-fed to you by the House of Commons until you get to retire with a pension that is fully-indexed to inflation.  Thank goodness Canada's Prime Ministers always seem to find a few brave souls that are willing to make the supreme sacrifice and take part in Canada's democratic institutions.

No comments:

Post a Comment