B.C.’s ex-MLAs get aid in transition to new jobs

 

The province will pay between $880,000 and $3.4 million to help former MLAs transition to new jobs.

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Each of the 25 MLAs who was not re-elected in May is entitled to between four and 15 months of transitional assistance.

Eleven defeated MLAs and 14 who opted not to run again are eligible for the payments. The amount each receives will depend on when they get a new job, start collecting a pension or reach the 15-month limit — whichever comes first.

Transitional assistance is calculated using the basic rate of $105,882, the minimum annual pay received by MLAs.

Because assistance can be provided for up to 15 months, an MLA can receive up to $132,353 in transition pay.

The payments also include benefits, but exclude pension contributions and group life insurance.

Former MLAs are also eligible for up to $9,000 for career counselling, education and retraining.

As an example, an MLA who served a full term would get a minimum four months’ pay of $35,300. The former MLA would be eligible for a maximum of $141,353, including 15 months’ pay of $132,353 and $9,000 for career counselling and training.

The transition payments stop when the MLA gets a job that pays an equal amount or more. If the new job pays less, the transition payments will top up her income until the end of the 15-month period.

To qualify for the full 15 months, a member must have served a full term.

Members elected during a byelection, such as NDP MLA Jodie Wickens, receive transitional assistance on a pro-rated basis. Wickens was elected in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain in February 2016, but lost her bid to keep the seat in 2017.

The $880,000 is based on 25 MLAs receiving the minimum four-month payment and nothing else. The $3.4 million is based on 24 MLAs (excluding Wickens) getting the maximum 15-month payment, plus $9,000 in training pay.

B.C. falls slightly above average in generosity when it comes to provincial politicians’ transition pay, said Scott Hennig, vice-president for communications and acting B.C. director for the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation.

Many provinces limit pay to 12 months, he said.

“B.C. is not outrageous. Certainly some of it is fairly generous,” he said.

Still, the federation does not believe the compensation is appropriate, he said. “The general standard we try to apply to compensation for politicians is: If it’s available in the private sector, then it’s OK to make it available in the public sector.”

Hennig compared an MLA’s term to a fixed-term contract position. Typically, a worker who completes a contract is not entitled to transition pay.

“If you were a contractor whose contract came up for renewal and you said you weren’t interested, the employer wouldn’t owe you another 15 or even four months of pay. The contract would be over.”

Hennig noted, however, that MLAs are ineligible for employment insurance, unlike typical contract workers.

A better model, he said, would see MLAs pay EI premiums, so they can apply for EI at the end of their terms.

Alberta had one of the most generous transition payments until recently, he said. In lieu of a pension plan, a transition allowance was provided, equal to three months’ pay for every year served, with no cap.

“The bare minimum anyone was paid out was one year,” Hennig said.

“When MLAs started getting defeated and retired years later, there were some MLAs getting seven-figure payouts.”

Alberta’s transitional allowance was scrapped under former premier Alison Redford in 2012.

asmart@timescolonist.com

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