Alberta Senator Grant Mitchell says pension reform could spark white collar crime wave

Has it come to this — a Canadian senator threatening a crime wave over pension reform?

A bill passed by the House of Commons last week and to be considered by Senate would realign the way Members of Parliament and senators pay into their pensions, the CBC reports.

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The result would be a reduction in take-home pay with that money being directed into their pensions, which would remain inaccessible until, like for the rest of us, the age of 65.

It is a tough pill to swallow for men and women who have worked long, grueling hours to get where they are. But is it really enough to force them into a life of crime?

As Alberta Senator Grant Mitchell told the Huffington Post:

All of our MPs are above reproach, but the pressures of not making enough money can become an issue and that is why [take-home salary] needs to be maintained at a certain level. We could talk about brown paper bags with cash in it, because there is pressure all the time. That is why pay needs to be absolutely adequate.

Alright, so Mitchell isn't exactly buying up balaclavas for himself and his cushy-seated cronies. What he is forecasting is white collar criminality — bribery and influence pedaling and whatnot.

On the one hand, those making decisions meant to benefit the nation as a whole need to be comfortable enough that they are not worried about making decisions that benefit themselves.

That is Mitchell's point, summarized.

On the other hand, seriously?

The salary for Members of Parliament starts at $157,731, while senators make $132,300 a year for a job that many people say isn't entirely necessary.

The budget passed last week would reduce monthly take-home pay, which Mitchell says will make car payments and children's university tuition more difficult to afford.

It's a difficult thing for working class families to understand. We are talking about really nice cars and real universities — Harvard, even — not, y'know, Honda Civics and technical colleges.

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Under the current pension system, according to the Canadian Taxpayer Federation, Canadians are fronting $24 for every $1 MPs contribute to their pensions. The new plan will make it closer to a 50-50 split.

To Mitchell's credit, he admits to the Huffington Post that he was taking an unpopular position, adding that MPs were forced to pass the bill lest be politically tarred and feathered as greedy hogs.

But it suggests Mitchell assumes everyone, specifically those of us not nearly as esteemed as his peers, are ready to sell out for the right price. Does he give us enough credit as to assume we would at least count the bills before accepting the brown bag?

The National Post's Kelly McParland offers a solution:

Sen. Mitchell has only been in Ottawa seven years, but it shows how quickly the walled-in mentality of the place can kick in. It would be easy enough to reduce his benefit contributions, simply my watering down the package he expects to receive when he retires.  It might be worth it, if it saves him from a life of crime.