B.C. throne speech promises electoral reform referendum, sales tax cut, no tolls

Steve Thomson, B.C. Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, speaks during an announcement regarding protecting British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest, at the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, B.C., on Monday February 1, 2016. A former Liberal cabinet minister is British Columbia's new Speaker of the legislature in what is likely to be a short-term appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Two local MLAs who are retiring from politics will leave Victoria with annual pensions worth more than a new car – a really nice one.

Liberal MLA Steve Thomson, who’s stepping down in Kelowna-Mission after 11 years in office, will be eligible for an annual pension of approximately $59,000, according to calculations released Friday by the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation. If he lives age to 85, the total value of his pension would be $1.1 million.

Linda Larson, another Liberal who’s leaving after seven years in Boundary-Similkameen, is entitled to $29,000 per year. If she lives to 85, that pension would be worth $469,000.

But their payouts pale in comparison to what Penticton native Rich Coleman has coming to him.

First elected as an MLA in the Lower Mainland in 1996, Coleman, who served as deputy premier from 2012-17 and in various cabinet posts, can expect a pension of $109,000 annually that would be worth $2.6 million to age 85.

“While we thank these retiring politicians for their work, taxpayers need to know the huge cost of these gold-plated pensions,” Kris Sims, B.C. director of the CTF, said in a press release.

“These pensions simply aren’t affordable for taxpayers. MLAs need to reform their pension plan.

According to CTF calculations, the total lifetime cost of the pensions awarded to the 17 MLAs who are retiring after the Oct. 24 election is approximately $20 million.

The basic annual salary of an MLA is $111,024. Pensions are calculated by taking the highest earning years of the retiring MLAs and factoring in their years of work. The annual pension payments are capped at 70 per cent of the highest earning years. For every $1 the politicians contribute to their own pension plans, taxpayers chip in $4.

“Most Canadians are lucky if their employer matches a dollar-for-dollar RRSP. There’s no justification for taxpayers to put in $4 for every $1 an MLA chips in,” said Sims.

In addition to their pensions, MLAs who are not seeking re-election are allowed to collect the equivalent of their salaries for up to 15 months while they look for new jobs, plus they get up to $9,000 if they need skills training.

The average annual income of a B.C. senior was $43,300 in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available from Statistics Canada.