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Bob Rae sets departure date as First Nations work picks up

Bob Rae, the member of parliament for Toronto Centre recently announced his retirement from politics. He'll be focusing his time and energy as he works with Aboriginal communities in the James Bay lowlands as they prepare to deal with mining issues. Known as the Ring of Fire, the northern Ontario area has deposits of chromite, a mineral used in the manufacture of stainless steel products. June 21 2013.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Three weeks after announcing he was leaving politics, Bob Rae hasn't yet actually resigned – and continues to do two jobs the MP himself said were proving too demanding to do simultaneously.

Mr. Rae, flanked by Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, announced on June 19 that he'd be resigning his seat. His work as a negotiator for nine First Nations groups meant he needed to "either step down from that job or step down as a Member of Parliament," Mr. Rae said at the time, stressing "this is not about money, this is about time."

His office now says he'll leave July 31, meaning he'll spend this month juggling consulting and constituency work. He'll then switch from his MP salary to his MP pension, a drop of about two-thirds. That gives Mr. Rae lag time – 42 days from announcing his resignation to it taking effect – that's longer than any other MP who has resigned since the 2011 election.

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The former interim Liberal leader and one-time Ontario premier said he needed until July 31 to wrap up constituency work. Only then will he be paid by the Matawa First Nations in negotiations over mining development in Ontario's so-called Ring of Fire. "I could have waited until July 31 to make the announcement [of resignation] but wanted to let my colleagues know in person before the end of session as I had been their interim leader and wanted to let them know directly," Mr. Rae said in an e-mail.

Last week, he toured the remote Matawa communities, and met the chiefs in Fort Hope, Ont., this week. Matawa confirmed Mr. Rae is not yet being paid.

The delay does not concern Gregory Thomas, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) watchdog.

"Six weeks doesn't seem unreasonable, under the circumstances for Bob Rae," Mr. Thomas said. The group has criticized Mr. Trudeau because his activities outside the House, including lucrative speaking gigs, came as he missed votes. "Apart from that, we don't have a problem with it," Mr. Thomas said of Mr. Trudeau's attendance record.

NDP Caucus Chair Peter Julian said he doesn't object to Mr. Rae's delayed departure as long as his constituency work is being done. If it is, "I don't think any of us would have any difficulty with them continuing to have a salary," Mr. Julian said.

Although the House isn't sitting, Mr. Julian said MPs remain swamped with meetings and events during July. "The office hours are, I would suggest at least for an MP, busier during the summer," Mr. Julian said.

Mr. Rae, who turns 65 on August 2, is the seventh MP to resign since the 2011 election; the six others all left more quickly. Peter Penashue announced his resignation on March 14 of this year, and it took effect the same day. Vic Toews announced it Monday, and said it would take effect Tuesday (though he was still, as of Wednesday, listed online as an MP). Lee Richardson formally left seven days after announcing, Denise Savoie took eight days, Denis Coderre took 17 days and Bev Oda took 28 days.

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CTF calculations show Mr. Rae's MP pension, payable immediately upon his resignation, will be $55,819 annually. An MP earns about $160,000. He joined the University of Toronto this month as a Distinguished Senior Fellow. That will pay him an annual stipend of $20,000, beginning in August, for teaching work, he says.

Mr. Rae's most recent filing with the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, submitted Jan. 29, reported no income beyond his MP salary. The commissioner's office said MPs are free to step down when they see fit.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Josh is a parliamentary reporter in Ottawa. Before moving to the nation's capital in 2013, he covered provincial affairs in Edmonton and throughout Alberta. He joined the Globe in 2008 in Toronto before returning to his home province in 2010. More

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