Budget to put brake on MPs' pensions

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's budget will take the shine off what critics call MPs' gold-plated pensions, reports Greg Weston for CBC News.

The budget will make sitting MPs pay more, and wait longer, to collect less in their retirement.

MPs can now collect their pension at age 55. That will increase to 60 or 65. For every dollar MPs put into their pension fund, taxpayers now contribute about $5.

Former Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe, who was voted out of office in the last election after serving as an MP for 20 years, now enjoys a parliamentary pension of over $140,000 a year — for life

In future, politicians will pay a bigger share and taxpayers a lot less.

Finally, most MPs will simply get smaller pensions.

Bill Robson, from the C.D. Howe Institute, is an expert on MPs' pensions, and he points out the only money set aside for MPs is on paper.

"The MP pensions exemplify what is wrong with the federal government's pensions generally. They are very generous and they are very badly underfunded. In the case of the MP pensions, there is no money backing those promises at all."

The budget is also set to slash MPs' office spending by $13.5 million, which includes cuts to everything from telephones to travel.

The spending reductions won't make a dent in the federal deficit, but with MPs sharing the pain, it sets the stage to go after public service pensions.

CBC News has learned the budget will make public servants pay an increasingly larger share of the government pension plan.

Patty Ducharme, national executive vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, says her union members feel betrayed. "The minister has told the national president in public forums actually that there would be no increased funding equation for our members, and what this essentially represents is a cut in pay to our members."

Cabinet sources say they are expecting a fight from the public service unions, but they are willing to gamble public opinion will be on the government's side.

The pension changes alone would save taxpayers more than $700 million a year.