Should senators still be allowed to collect pensions if convicted of a crime?

Andy Radia

Here's a dumb question: Should politicians be entitled to pensions if they're caught stealing from taxpayers?

The answer should be a big resounding 'no'.

Unfortunately, in Canada, MPs and Senators can flout the law while in office and still be rewarded with gold-plated pensions.

In fact, it's happening now.

Former Liberal senator Raymond Lavigne is now in jail for breaching Senate expense rules. But, because he retired from the red chamber before he could be booted out, he's still entitled to a taxpayer funded pension of $79,000 a year.

Earlier this week, senator Mac Harb retired from the upper chamber amid RCMP investigation which alleges that he falsely claimed a senate living allowance. Regardless of whether he's charged or convicted, he'll still earn a pension of almost $123,000 a year from his time as a MP and senator.

On Facebook, NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus accused Harb of pulling a Lavigne.

"Disgraced Liberal senator Raymond Lavigne "resigned" from the Senate in order to protect his pension. He is in the hoosegow now and still entitled to life long support from Canadians. Is Mac Harb stealing a play from the Lavigne playbook?," Angus wrote.

"The Senate rules are clear — if you are facing jail time make sure you "retire" before you meet the judge and you will continue to receive money from the Canadian people for life. Given the amount they ripped off from Canadian — why hasn't this gang been tossed out by the Senate? Oh right...nobody has ever been kicked out of the old boys club."

[ Related: Former Liberal senator Raymond Lavigne not granted early parole ]

Luckily for taxpayers, Senators Duffy, Brazeau and Wallin — who are also under RCMP investigation — aren't entitled to their pensions unless they can keep their seats until the beginning of 2015.

[ Related: The embattled Mac Harb retires from the Senate ]

Canadians might also get some reprieve thanks to Conservative backbencher John Williamson who has a very timely private members bill making its way through Parliament.

Williamson's Bill — The Protecting Taxpayers and Revoking Pensions of Convicted Politicians Act would take away the Parliamentary pension from any MP or senator convicted of a serious crime during his or her time in office.

According to the Globe and Mail, the bill would be retroactive to June 3.

"The intent of my bill is to remove pensions from lawmakers that break the law,” Williamson told the Globe.

"From my point of view, and I think from the point of view of a lot of taxpaying Canadians out there, it shouldn’t matter whether the senator is still in the Senate or has ducked out early, or even resigned and then the malfeasance was discovered many years later."

Now why did it take 146 years for a Canadian politician to come up with a common sense piece of legislation like that?

If his bill doesn't pass, maybe Canadians should be taking the names of MPs who voted against it.

(Photo courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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