Ban pitchforks, except for those who wield them too easily

Ban pitchforks, except for those who wield them too easily

A little news item caught my attention recently, about how the taxpayers of Ottawa would be on the hook for half a million dollars, more or less, for severance pay for councillors and, famously, one mayor not seeking re-election. 

That was a long sentence. Pun intended.

The system is set up, at every political level, to reward politicians who can hang in there as long as possible. Members of Parliament, as you know, start earning a pension after six years in their seat. Someone who spends many long years on the Hill thus accumulates a big fat pension through no other skill than longevity.

Someone like, to pick an example at random, oh look, career politician Pierre Poilievre who’s set to retire with a very fine nest egg indeed, financed by ours truly. 

Here’s a video Rick Mercer did in — hold on to your bonnets — 2009 to celebrate the fact that the then young man of 31 was henceforth qualified for a full pension, despite having only worked as politician his entire career. Which he’s still doing 13 years later, as you may have heard.

But let’s not get fixated on this one person. 

Let us instead ask the very important question of: How exactly are we to compensate politicians for the work they do for their constituents? 

You can’t not pay people, or else you’ll only get rich dilettantes in the halls of power, or people who literally have nothing to lose. You can’t pay them too much because then you’ll only attract greedy folks. But beyond the magic number that makes sense for the work and dedication of politicians, there is the question of the “when” that compensation is being handed out. 

And here my question is: Why the heck do we bother with pensions? Or severance pay? If you pay politicians enough, is that not, well, enough? 

Like I said, I don’t like pitchforks. But if you feel like getting offended by something, go look at the list of federal MPs who either lost or didn’t run in the last election and how much they’re going to get every year. 

I don’t want to not compensate people for the time they spend working in politics. But this system seems… out of touch with the reality of most Canadians, at the very least. 

Rewarding longevity encourages people to not make waves, not cause trouble, and just go with whatever seems to be in fashion so they can keep being in power for the sake of earning a fat pension or severance package. 

If instead you paid people well for their time in public service but let them be on their own thereafter, then maybe they’d show up to serve for so long as it made sense to them and/or to the voters and would go do something else with their lives after their stint in politics ended.