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Cost of Living Adjustment

by Owen Corcoran, BCRTA Past President

This article first appeared in the BCRTA Spring 2005 edition of Postscript and is published here with the permission of Owen Cocoran.

Great news! You are to receive a 1.8% COLA [Cost-of-Living Adjustment] to your pension this year.

If you are fortunate enough to receive a $45,000.00 p.a. stipend this works out to an increase of $810.00 annually, before tax – and any claw back on your Old Age Pension and escalation in your Pharmacare deductible.

Don’t get me wrong! I consider the 1.8% COLA a reasonable increase, especially when one considers what our working partners – the teachers and administrators in our public schools- will receive.

But, as you sit huddled over your one bar electric heater, wondering if you should remove your gloves so you can grip your pencil more tightly and actually press the keys of your calculator while you plan how to allocate the cola amount, consider this.

Currently a federal commission is recommending that judicial salaries be raised by 10% this year, plus additional cost of living increases in each of the next three years. Under reforms passed by Parliament in 2001, the salary of federal politicians is tied to that of the judiciary, meaning that the foregoing raises will go to MPs and senators as well. This move could top 16% over the next four years if one incorporates the annual and automatic cost of living increases.

No! No! Don’t ask me about the Governor General’s budget, the $43,448.00 rose garden and the $5.3 million junket to Russia, Finland and Iceland. Her second Northern Tour has been put on hold by the feds. Surely she has given enough!

Some facts:

1. MPs are currently paid $140,000.00 per year. This places them in the top 3% of Canadian Income earners.

2. Three years ago, federal politicians voted themselves a 20% raise [the Prime Minister’s raise was 42%], Since then, those salaries have increased by another 7.3% – a total 28.5% increase since 2000. How does yourCOLA increase look now?

3. The recommended 10% increase would jump basic MP salaries to $155,100 this year. And it’s retroactive to April 2004. How does your COLA increase look now?

4. The annual cost-of-living additions will see the basic salary rise to $165,000.00 by 2007. A 16.7% boost over four years. How does your COLA increase look now?

5. My Grade 9 granddaughter did the math for me as the amounts and the percentages were befuddling. Her calculation – a 50% increase in MP basic salaries since 2000. How does your COLA increase look now?

If only this remuneration were reflected in the wisdom and practicality of the laws and decisions which the recipients produce, the universal health care system they control, etc. Perhaps then my jaundiced eye would uncloud, my COLA would look much more reasonable, and I would view the recipients as models of Plato’s Philosopher King.  If only!!!