Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Put on your running shoes! Getting elected to the Legislature has its rewards!

Does the British Columbia Legislature have a seat for you?
Compensation, Benefits and Pension opportunities might
be something to tempt you to consider a run this May!

When it comes to winning the votes of North Coast voters on May 9th, there's more than just the opportunity to serve the community in the British Columbia Legislature, a victory on May 9th might just be along the same lines of hitting it big on the Lottery!

Over the weekend, the Vancouver Province's Michael Smyth offered up the dollar count for what's at stake next month, with a column that outlines just what kind of financial reward comes to those that can accumulate the most votes.

The item opens up with a review of the Thanks for your Service files, with an account of those departing MLA's who have done very well for their time in office, the main focus being an explanation as to the financial payout that comes to those that can cobble together consecutive election victories.

Among the many notes of interest reviewed by the Province journalist is the rather short path to pension benefits. With MLA's only having to serve six years to be eligible for a lifetime pension financed by the tax payers, something that should put a spring in the step of the North Coast incumbent who is but one term served away from that particular moment.

As Smyth points out, even if an incumbent doesn't capture the fancy of the electorate on May 9th, there are also severance arrangements and a retraining allowance built into the exit from the political scene.

The full Smyth article can be reviewed here.

Some of the research on that financial review came from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, which has posted a list of the retiring MLA's from this year  drawing attention to the lifetime payouts that are heading their way.

Among those on the list is the now recently retired MLA Robin Austin, who held the neighbouring Skeena riding for twelve years.

His Year One pension payout is listed at $44,112, with a lifetime payout noted at age 80 to come to $762,852.

Considering the quickly accelerating amounts to be paid out from those pension plans, one suspects that one item of the evolving platform from the Green Party might receive a bit of attention on the campaign trail this spring.

As part of their overview, the Greens are suggesting that British Columbia should have a twelve year limit to the terms that MLA's can serve in the Legislature.

Green leader Andrew Weaver introduced a motion to do just that earlier this month, though perhaps in a surprise to no one, time it seems ran out on the Spring session before MLA's would be required to go on the record to consider such a concept.

And as if the long term planning arrangements aren't enough to give you cause to consider taking a run for office next month, the paydays at the Legislature are pretty sweet as well.

Last August, the Tyee provided a pretty helpful guide to how British Columbia's MLA's have had what union folks would call a pretty good day at the negotiating table.

Though, there's no actual negotiating involved, it's more a case of voting to top up the compensation packages and sending the bill to the taxpayers.

The Tyee notes include a comparison between how well MLA's have done over the last ten years, rising to the upper reaches for Canadian politicians; while average British Columbians don't quite keep the same pace when it comes to salary and benefit options.

You can view the Tyee research here.

As for official documentation, when the Public Accounts for 2015/2016 were released the Base pay for an MLA was listed at $102,568, with allowances listed for living in the Capital City and for travel.

Those notes can be reviewed here.

The path of information disclosure is somewhat byzantine at times out of Victoria, however this report digs a little deeper into the different levels of compensation available, depending on whether you are a member of the Government side of the House, or across the aisle as part of the Opposition.

Updated information from the Legislature most likely won't be available until after the current campaign has come to an end.

Beyond the basic compensation package for those that make the cut on May 9th, there are the various add ons for those that may have committee membership, as well as other allowances and benefits related to work in Victoria and at the constituency office level.

The Legislature provides the financial reports for a number of categories:

MLA Travel Expenses
Reimbursable Travel Expense Receipts
Constituency Office Expenses Summary Report
Reimbursable Constituency Office Expenses

While there are many other duties that MLA's have to tend to on a daily basis. The actual time spent at the Legislature is also not exactly the most taxing part of the job.

Last year the BC Legislature met for a total of 99 Days, with the last sitting of the Legislature in 2016 taking place on July 28th.

When to sit at the Legislature is at the whim of the Government House Leader and last year the Liberal Government decided that they could find no reason to call a Fall session for 2016.

That political strategy resulted in a gap of just over six months before any issues facing communities across the province would have a chance to be discussed and debated.

Even when they were back in the House, it was a short call back to work In the lead up to the May election campaign. From the opening of the Spring session on February 14th through to the last moments of the March 16th session our MLA's spent 23 days tending to the people's business in Victoria.

Once you begin to add up the basic compensation, the pension options if you can put together a couple of terms and the time commitments that make for a Legislature year, we all might want to give some thought to digging out some comfortable shoes and throwing a hat in the ring.

And while it seems that the campaign is already underway, the official campaign period doesn't actually launch until April 11th. So there is still plenty of time to paint a few campaign signs and run off some pamphlets.

So far, the dash for some pretty nice cash is only three aside at the starting line on the North Coast, giving any other would be MLA's a few more days to decide if the rigours of an election campaign are worth the reward that comes once the ballots are  counted.

You can follow our notes on the North Coast election campaign from our North Coast Votes archive page here.

A look at the campaign issues from the larger Provincial campaign can be reviewed on our political portal D'Arcy McGee.

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