Political parting gift: Departing councillors in line for numerous benefits

Political parting gift: Departing councillors in line for numerous benefits

Four departing members of Calgary city council are in line for a transition allowance as they prepare for life after politics.

In addition to the pensions they earned while on the public payroll, the four soon-to-be ex-councillors will collect two weeks pay for every year they were in office.

Earlier this year, members of the council compensation review committee recommended the city do away with the transition payments.

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However, city council voted against accepting that recommendation.

Based on years of service, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation estimates that Coun. Andre Chabot will collect approximately $52,000 after serving more than 12 years on council. 

Chabot, who was running for mayor, was defeated in Monday's election.

Councillors Brian Pincott and Jim Stevenson will be paid approximately $43,000 each by the city. Coun. Richard Pootmans will collect approximately $30,000 for completing his seven years in office.

No guarantees after politics

Pincott said there's nothing inappropriate about the payments. 

"The transition allowance recognizes that you don't just stop this and start something else," he said.

In fact, he said many former councillors discover soon after leaving office that their time in office doesn't guarantee them a new job. In fact, it can hurt their job search.

"You take a look at how many elected officials are successful in finding another good career, post-being elected. It's pretty much limited to mayors and cabinet ministers. MLAs don't, councillors don't, members of parliament don't."

Chabot said the reality hits hard when the term in office is completed.

"The salary comes to an abrupt end. There's a transition allowance but there's also no ability to collect unemployment," said Chabot.

The 2017 salary for councillors is $113,416. 

When they leave office, councillors are eligible for a pension at age 55, but it is reduced by three per cent for each year prior to age 60 should they choose to collect it.

'They're paid quite well'

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says politicians should be able to do their own financial planning without relying on the public purse for a transition allowance.

Colin Craig,  the group's interim director,  said council members win a four-year term when they win an election, something few other people can bank on.

"It's certainly, I think, fair to expect elected officials to have to plan responsibly for the future, just like everyday taxpayers have to," said Craig.

"They're paid quite well. They have enough money that they could put aside a little bit in the event that either they lose election or decide not to run."

Retired members of council are eligible for other benefits on a cost-shared basis with the city, provided they served at least two terms in office.

Those benefits include extended healthcare, dental plan and life insurance. 

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