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quebec

A Liberal MP is taking flak from his former colleagues on the Gatineau City Council for pocketing $70,000 in retirement and transition allowances after winning a seat in last year's federal election.

Stéphane Lauzon won in the riding of Argenteuil-La Petite-Nation on Oct. 19, then quit his job as a municipal councillor in Gatineau. He has since been appointed parliamentary secretary for sport and persons with disabilities, pushing his total salary to $184,000.

Mr. Lauzon was first elected to city council in 2009 and spent nearly six years in the position. After quitting his job in the middle of his mandate, he received a retirement allowance of $12,931 and a transition allowance of $56,540, totalling almost $69,500, according to city officials.

The mayor of Gatineau, Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, said the rules should be changed when people voluntarily quit their jobs to run at another political level.

"In terms of the law, it's entirely justifiable," Mr. Pedneaud-Jobin told reporters on Tuesday. "In terms of the taxpayers, I don't think it is."

The mayor said such transition allowances should not be awarded when people remain in politics.

"I think there is a problem in a case like this, when someone goes from one job to another, both elected positions. I think we need to give ourselves the tools to prevent such a situation from happening again," Mr. Pedneaud-Jobin said.

Newly elected MP Gérard Deltell was eligible for an indemnity of more than $100,000 when he quit Quebec's National Assembly to run for the Conservatives last year. However, Mr. Deltell voluntarily decided not to take the money.

In an interview, Mr. Lauzon said he simply followed the rules in place, adding that the allowances have to be viewed in the context of his entire remuneration package.

"It was part of the initial contract that I signed in 2009," the former schoolteacher said. "When I got elected, I put aside my career and took a pay cut of $35,000 a year."

Mr. Lauzon said cities such as Gatineau have to offer attractive financial packages to bring good people to municipal politics. For now, however, he plans to focus on his duties as an MP to work on federal issues and consult the residents of his riding on their priorities.

The Quebec government clamped down late last year on retirement allowances that are offered to members of the National Assembly who quit mid-mandate. To obtain the money, retiring MNAs now need to prove that their departure is related to serious health issues.

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