St. John's East-Quidi Vidi NDP MHA Lorraine Michael and Gerry Rogers, NDP MHA for St. John's Centre, wait for the MHA swearing-in ceremony to begin at Confederation Building Dec. 18, 2015. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
New Democrat MHA Lorraine Michael is getting paid an MHA pension, while she still simultaneously draws a salary as MHA of more than $108,000.
Speaker Tom Osborne confirmed that in addition to her base salary as an MHA, plus a supplemental salary for serving as NDP caucus whip, Michael is also receiving an MHA pension.
“It’s my understanding that once an individual in Canada reaches the age of 71, they must draw their pension,” Osborne told the Telegram. “If they continue to work, I guess they draw their pension and their salary.”
Michael was first elected in 2006. While pension entitlements are extremely complicated to calculate, Michael’s pension entitlement would amount to around $50,000 per year.
The payments for the NDP are quietly becoming a source of frustration among some politicians in the province, as the government grapples with a deficit of nearly $2 billion, and the new Liberal government says it is looking for ways to slash spending across the board by 30 per cent.
In the November election, the party only won two seats, but that still gives them standing as an official caucus under the House of Assembly Accountability, Integrity and Administration Act.
In the law, the caucus whip’s job comes with a salary of $13,517. The whip’s job is primarily just wrangling the other members of caucus in the House of Assembly, but with only two members of caucus, as whip Michael will pretty much just be wrangling Rogers.
Similarly, to chair a caucus of just two people, Rogers is getting paid $13,517 — on top of the base $95,357 MHA salary.
Speaking to the Telegram, Michael said she plans on working hard for the supplemental salary.
“In the House of Assembly, I will be the de facto house leader for us, but there is no official house leader for the third party according to legislation,” she said. “Yet I will perform that. I will go to all of the meetings with the other house leaders, and I will do all of that work.”
Michael said if anybody objects to the New Democrats receiving supplemental allowances, there should be a broader review of all salaries.
“If this was an issue that were raised that would come before the House Management Commission, I would be totally open to having a discussion about our legislation — absolutely open,” she said. “At this point in time, receiving the salary will mean to me that I will do everything that I believe a whip has to do, and will work for that money.”
Osborne said that all of this stuff may come up when the House of Assembly Management Commission meets, likely sometime later this month.
The management commission oversees all administration of finances and administrative support for the House of Assembly and MHA constituency matters.
“Those positions have been funded for the third party, and it is something that will have to be looked at,” he said. “If there were any changes, that would have to be looked at by the management commission.”
As for receiving the pension and salary at the same time, Michael said that’s just the law.
“I’m no longer paying into the pension, so the pension can’t increase, and neither is the government,” she said. “I’m receiving a pension that I paid into, that is legitimate. I have to receive it. I don’t think that receiving a pension is a reason for not being an MHA.”
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