MLA Kevin Krueger will leave public office in a year’s time with promise of a job guarantee and a handsome pension for his 16 years of service.
Krueger, who announced Wednesday that he won’t be seeking re-election next May, would be entitled to an annual pension of $87,700 at age 65 since he bought back into the plan the Liberal government introduced in 2007.
The former cabinet minister plans to return to his former job as a manager with ICBC. His lifetime pension could be worth $1.5 million.
The Liberals ran against “gold-plated” MLA pension plans in the 1996 election, said Jordan Bateman, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
It was that election when Krueger, as a member of the Opposition, was first sent to Victoria by voters in Kamloops. The NDP government slashed MLA pensions after winning the 1996 election, but the Liberals introduced a more generous system in 2007 after the issue was reviewed by an impartial panel. The revised plan enabled MLAs to buy back into the system.
That move came only after the NDP Opposition backed out of a deal agreed to in secret by MLAs in late 2005 to increase pay by 15 per cent while launching a pension plan 21/2 times that of public-sector workers.
“It’s very disappointing,” Bateman said. “It’s one of the sudden policy shifts Gordon Campbell made that’s never been fully explained or understood by the public. This is something that’s going to cost the taxpayer, not just now, but down the road.”
Krueger said it’s sleazy of the CTF to raise the issue at this point.
“It’s very smarmy to raise the issue as soon as a person makes a decision to leave office,” he said. The continual criticism makes others reluctant to enter politics, he added.
He’s not certain he’ll ever collect the pension with a genetic predisposition for heart problems in his family, he said. His father passed away at 61 and his brother recently underwent a quadruple bypass.
“I have no expectation to live past 65,” he said. “Probably a lot of people never collect on it. I did sign up for it.”
Krueger said the Liberals were prepared to ditch pensions entirely before the 2007 pension change was made in consideration of family.
“It has been hashed over so many times. We came up with a package, we voted on it, it was unanimous on both sides of the house.”
While the CTF supports MLA pensions, it believes they should be comparable to those in the private sector, not in a category all their own. For every dollar MLAs put into their pensions, taxpayers contribute $4.
“We didn’t exactly ask Mr. Krueger to live like a pauper these last 16 years,” Bateman said, noting that the MLA’s annual salary as a cabinet minister in latter years was roughly $150,000.
Politicians lose the moral authority to reform public pensions when they benefit from such perks, he added.
Krueger signed a contract with ICBC granting him leave without pay when he entered politics. The provision was available to both union and management employees and was given no end date.
“They probably never envisioned someone would go back after 17 years. Life has a way of creeping by on you. I’m very surprised I’ve been at it this long.”
He originally intended to limit his time in office to two terms, but wound up serving four.