Local retirees think changes to MP and public sector pension plans do little to even the playing field between government employees and the average citizen.
"I think some of them are in it (government) just for the pension. It's so much," said Larry Reynolds, 64.
The first major overhaul of gold-plated MP pensions proposed in decades is part of the Harper government's latest omnibus budget bill introduced Thursday.
After 2015, MPs will have to wait until 65 to collect pensions rather than 55. By 2017, the amount they pay into their share will increase from about $11,000 a year to just under $39,000, about half the total contribution.
Current members of Parliament could easily escape the announced pension changes, however — all they have to do is not run in the next election, expected in 2015.
A retired Weyerhaeuser employee, Reynolds said he put in nearly 30 years so that he could retire with a full pension — an amount he wasn't prepared to disclose.
"I'm not in too bad a shape," he said.
He doesn't believe it's right that an MP only has to work five or six years to collect a pension that exceeds what he makes, however.
Norma Gookes, 75, agrees. A retired registered nurse, she collects about $3,000 a month. But she contributed about half that amount from her paycheque during the 30 years she worked. MPs don't contribute anywhere near that amount, she said.
"I'm not happy about that," said Gookes.
Someone who is happy about it — up to a point anyway — is Jordan Bateman, B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. He said the changes aren't perfect but they're a step in the right direction.
"Today is by far the most significant victory for taxpayers we've ever experienced on the MP pension plan," he said.
Raising eligibility from 55 to 65 is reasonable, said Bateman. So is increasing the amount MPs are required to pay into.
Treasury Board president Tony Clement said the changes will save taxpayers $2.6 billion over five years.
The changes included in the massive omnibus budget implementation bill had been hinted at in the March budget.
The omnibus bill presents a political quandary. If opposition MPs vote it down, they'll be forced to answer why they rejected changes to their own pensions.
Norman Ruff, political science emeritus at the University of Victoria, said it also forces pension-reform opponents within the Conservative caucus to vote in favour of the changes.
"It doesn't just put pressure on the opposition, it puts pressure on their own caucus. They are going to have to vote for the whole thing along with the opposition," he said. "It's a bit backhanded."
Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod said Canadians wanted MP pension reform and her party listened.
"I'd heard loud and clear from many constituents that they believed the pension systems was not a fair system and we needed to pay our fair share," she said.
Public-sector pensions will also be affected by the changes introduced Thursday. Newly hired public servants will begin collecting theirs at 65 and not 60 and all will move toward contributing more over the next five years.
The amount MPs contribute to their pensions will more closely mimic private-sector plans, but a key element still sets the program apart.
The parliamentary pension fund is not invested in the markets and its interest rate is set by regulation and paid for by taxpayers, rendering it immune to fluctuations in the economy.
The latest omnibus budget bill from the Harper government makes changes to everything from the Indian Act and the Canadian Labour Code to the Canada Shipping Act.
The bill kills off independent tribunals that examined things such as hazardous materials in the workplace and set the rates for employment insurance premiums, while making workers pay taxes on their employers' contributions to group health and accident insurance plans.
It also sharply reduces project approvals required under the Navigable Waters Protection Act, sets time limits on worker complaints under the Canada Labour Code and makes additional changes to an Environmental Assessment Act that was essentially rewritten by the Conservative government last spring.