Alan Tonks draws three handsome pensions from various levels of the civil service, according to the Canadian Press. Each of the pensions is more than $10,000 annually and in addition to his $157,731 annual salary as an MP. Tonks appears to be triple-dipping, but the appearance is incorrect.
The tone of Elizabeth Thompson’s article invites contempt. The story opens with a quote from a sitting MP:
““I think we earn enough money,” said Mr. Maloway, who estimates he is giving up $30,000 a year. “I don’t think anybody thinks MPs are underpaid.”
After a long name-and-shame list of sitting MPs who also draw pensions (among them Alan Tonks), the article concludes with a quote opposing the pensions:
Kevin Gaudet of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation says he doesn’t have a problem with MPs collecting pensions from private companies but is troubled by MPs also getting pension cheques from governments.
“It does smack of problems for taxpayers when elected officials, in effect, end up double-dipping at taxpayer expense.”
Mr. Gaudet said more MPs should follow mr. [sic] Maloway’s example and voluntarily forgo other government pensions while they sit in the Commons.
While I, your humble editor, have never been unduly kind to Tonks, Thompson’s article is unfair. There is no good principle that would require MPs to forgo public pensions. Those pensions were voluntarily agreed to by employer and employee. Nobody objects to private pensions or to personal wealth among MPs; public pensions are no different: they are a part of the total compensation given to public servants.
Asking MPs to return their public pensions is asking for a double standard. It is saying that those in the public sector deserve a lower real salary than those in the private sector. Demanding the money’s return is also unfair. It is asking for money made fairly to be repaid. It is, in short, asking former public servants (and only public servants) to pay for the privilege of serving in the House.
While a $160,000 salary seems to me quite generous, Tonks should not be singled out merely because he has worked in the public sector for decades.