Empty house greets committee reviewing MHA pay

Colin MacLean
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St. John’s Board of Trade chairman Steve Power speaks to media at the Holiday Inn in St. John’s Monday evening as rows of empty chairs sit behind him. Power was the only presenter at the consultation on the salaries of MHAs. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Should MHAs get a pay raise? What about their pensions, allowances and severance payments?

Those questions were put to the public in St. John’s yesterday evening in a rented hall at the Holiday Inn — but hardly anyone showed up.

A public meeting where residents could have voiced their opinions on the matter was scheduled to last 2 1/2 hours Monday evening at  the hotel, but it wrapped up after about 10 minutes.

At one point there were five reporters in attendance (six counting one who was just there to observe), compared to one unnamed observer and two representatives of the St. John’s Board of Trade.

Judge Jacqueline Brazil, chairwoman of the Members’ Compensation Review Committee, did not comment on the proceedings, except to say that it was disappointing so few people chose to attend.

Only the Board of Trade made a presentation, and it focused on public pensions rather than MHA compensation.

However, those two issues are related, said Steve Power, chairman of the board.

He called on MHAs to set an example by making changes to their own pension plans.

“We’d like to see the MHAs lead by example. The St. John’s Board of Trade is very concerned about our total provincial debt and of course the unfunded pension liabilities make up a big portion of that,” said Power.

“This is something we need to deal with, and I think the time to start dealing with it is now. And I think the best place to start dealing with it is on the MHA side.”

As of March 31, 2011, the net provincial debt of Newfoundland and Labrador was about $8.1 billion.

The board points out a significant portion of that money, nearly 60 per cent, is a combined net unfunded liability for the public sector’s pension fund, including those of MHAs.

Unfunded pensions are financially unviable, said Power, and if MHAs start making direct contributions to their own pensions, then it would be a step in the right direction of making the province more financially sound.

“Guaranteed pensions guarantee debt,” he said.

Power was the only speaker during the meeting.

The House of Assembly Ac-countability, Integrity and Administration Act requires MHA compensations to be reviewed at least once every four years. Brazil was appointed by the legislature in April of this year as the sole member of the committee responsible for compiling that review.

Her report is due before December 3, 2012.

There are four public meetings left on Brazil’s schedule: Sept. 26 in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Sept. 27 in Corner Brook, Oct. 3 in Grand Falls-Windsor and Oct. 4 in Clarenville.

cmaclean@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @TelegramMacLean

Organizations: Board of Trade, Holiday Inn, Compensation Review Committee House of Assembly Ac Integrity and Administration

Geographic location: Brazil, Newfoundland and Labrador, Happy Valley Goose Bay Corner Brook Grand Falls-Windsor

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  • Political Watcher
    September 25, 2012 - 08:42

    Just goes to show that people are tired of being asked for an opinion only to find out it was lip service. As often as people have been asked about politicians salaries and benefits I would like to see one time where a persons comments was used.

  • DON II
    September 25, 2012 - 08:14

    This says it all people! Where was the public? Does anybody care? Is Newfoundland and Labrador a lazy peoples democracy? Let somebody else worry about it all. We will read all about it in The Telegram. Maybe! Newspaper reporters and media talking heads are famous for putting their own bias and spin on the News. The apathy and ignorance of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador is well known in political circles and that is the reason why politicians do what they want. Nobody cares what the politicians and their hacks do until the lid blows off of some scandal. If it were not for a handful of career reporters and a few inside the Government informants, nobody in Newfoundland and Labrador would have a sweet clue what their Federal, Provincial and Municipal politicians and their well connected hacks are up to behind the scenes and behind closed doors. The House of Assembly is just political theatre designed to make it appear that real debate is happening. In fact, nothing is ever debated properly and nothing is ever fully disclosed to the public. They never ask who instigated the legislation and why it was proposed during their so called debates in the House of Assembly. You could propose legislation requiring that every house in Newfoundland and Labrador must be painted purple with yellow polka dots and it would get passed! The politicians in Newfoundland have it made. I have heard people say that there is nothing we can do to stop the Government anyway, they do what they want, so why worry about it? You can't fight City Hall, right? If the people told the candidates who show up at their doors every election that we will not tolerate business as usual and you politicians had better clean up your act or be prepared to be a one term member, that would get their attention. However, the way the system is set up right now In Newfoundland, the politicians could legislate that they are entitled to receive a $100,000.00 a year pension after serving only 1 term in office in order to blunt the public threat to turf them out of office after one term! That is the level of contempt that the politicians and bureaucrats have for the people! We need honorable, ethical and intelligent people to run for office in order to clean up the political system in Newfoundland and Labrador otherwise nothing will ever be changed.

  • Grandma
    September 25, 2012 - 08:08

    So who knew???? A little publication would have helped.

  • ConcernedCitizen
    September 25, 2012 - 07:47

    They are making enough, especially consdering their generous pension plans. If they are looking for more money, maybe the public should take a page out of Gary Bettman's book and lock them out. They are in session little enough now, they would hardly be missed, .

  • roy
    September 25, 2012 - 07:42

    I wasn't there so maybe i shouldn't be saying anything. This govt will do whatever it wants to benefit themselves. The unfunded liability was caused by previous govts who spent the pension money building roads and schools etc and not putting their share of the contribution and taking holidays of not funding as premier wells did. The money was supposed to be invested and if it was there would be a surplus there not. All newfoundland benefited from public service pensions by having roads built now those on pension who paid the benefits are the loosers. MHA's should get the same as other govt workers that is 2percent per year for time served and no other under the table benefits as thet now get. But then again i am one of thousands of pensioners who didn't go to the meeting so i am accepting what i am given. If we dont wake up and swamp these meetings then we get what we deserve.We wont benefit by hiding in our homes and grumbing amongst ourselves. The squeeky wheel gets the greese. There shouldn't be a building in NL big enough to hold us pensioners but as you see there isn't enough interested to have a table of four handed growl, so you and i get what we deserve. Thank you for reading..

  • Mary
    September 25, 2012 - 07:39

    I think MHA's should accrue 2% a year just like all the other public sector. You put in 12 years you get 24% of your salary. Not 70%!!

  • maryann
    September 25, 2012 - 07:39

    These meetings have been held for public input for many years...how to save money in hospitals,budgets etc now gov.pensions.The ppl in charge then put all responsibilities back on these suggestions (it doesn,t matter that the only ideas they listen to are their own)They dont need anyone to tell them the sector pensions need indexing and theirs need adjusting to say the least..Only pocket they are interested in is their own.

  • Sarah
    September 25, 2012 - 07:39

    I'm curious to know how this meeting was advertised? I read the news everyday, listen to the radio at work, use Twitter, yet I knew nothing about this. Perhaps more effort should have been made to actually inform the public about the meeting.

  • Marg
    September 25, 2012 - 07:29

    Why would anyone take the time to attend this meeting when we know that they really don't care what the public says or feels? They will once again get their increases off the backs of the taxpayers.

  • Ben
    September 25, 2012 - 07:14

    Just another example showing that its really the media pushing this news. As a member of the general public i have more things to worry about than this. Apparently alot more people in the metro area feel the same way! Would love for the media to focus on a little positive news for awhile. Oh no...guess that doesnt sell papers!

  • Dawb O
    September 25, 2012 - 07:14

    I am sure that the MHA's and the premier got a raise last week or the week before, Maybe soneone should check into that!!!!!!!!!!!! People are so used to the Dunderdale Government going agianst the peoples wishes that they don't see the point in going to a meeting that will not make one bit of difference becouse they (government) will do whatever anyway!!!!!!!!!!

  • Katy
    September 25, 2012 - 06:57

    Maybe some people wanted to attend but were working or - like me - work both a 40-hour job, and a part time job in order to cover taxes and provide some kind of perks for my child. Oh, and I'd like to spend a few minutes a day playing with my child. Most - not all - MHAs do nothing to earn their salary, much less their pensions. It's ridiculous that I'm desperately cobbling together money for my child to take swimming lessons, while these dweebs enjoy salary, plus car allowance, plus travel allowance, plus cell phone, plus housing allowance. Then, after a few years, they can retire on a pension that I'm paying for. Why wasn't I there? Because telling you that these fat cats are spoiled and undeserving isn't going to change a thing. It didn't before, and it won't now. They'll still be lapping up their luxuries while the rest of us scrape by.

  • M.
    September 25, 2012 - 06:23

    What difference would it make, this government is doing what it wants anyway!!!