The face of the federal Parliament could be dramatically altered after the next election as sitting MPs rush to make their exit before changes to their pensions prevent them from collecting the full benefit of their lucrative plans until they are 65 years old.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation points out that that there are 146 MPs, representing of all stripes, who must be weighing their options – asking themselves if they are prepared to stick with the job for another decade, fighting multiple elections and paying tens of thousands of dollars more each year to get their post-politics pay.
Right now, any Member of Parliament with at least six years of service can retire at the age of 55 and collect pension benefits calculated according to their tenure. For instance, Bob Rae, the former interim leader of the federal Liberals, was able to collect $55,819 in annual pension benefits immediately after retiring earlier this month at the age of 64 with nine cumulative years as an MP.
Even if he had been 55, Mr. Rae would have been able to get that kind of payout as long as he had put in the time on the Hill.
But changes introduced by the Conservative government last September mean federal politicians will have to wait until they are 65 years old for their full pension cheques.
There is a twist, however, that will give many politicians reason to consider an early fade into the sunset: The changes apply only to MPs who are elected or re-elected in the national vote that is scheduled for 2015. Any who bow out before the ballots are counted will get the whole enchilada.
The Taxpayers Federation offers the example of Treasury Board President Tony Clement. In 2014, Mr. Clement will be 54 years old. If he retired, he would be eligible for his pension of 24 per cent of salary on his 55th birthday in 2016. But he if was re-elected in 2015, then retired immediately after, he would have to wait until his 65th birthday in 2026.
An MP can still retire after 2015 and begin collecting a pension between the ages of 55 and 65 but they will lose a percentage of their pension indefinitely for each year they begin collecting early.
So, if an MP who is his or her early '50s runs again and wins in 2015 but then loses when a minority government falls two years, they are in a bit of a quandary. They could start collecting a pension at the age of 55 but it would be forever reduced. Or they could wait until 65 but lose all those years of benefits.
"MPs find themselves in a funny position heading into the 2015 election. If they stay after 2015, MPs who retire early will have their pension entitlements reduced anywhere from 1 to 10 per cent, corresponding to the number of years of extra retirement they take ahead of their 65th birthday," said Gregory Thomas, the executive director of the Taxpayers Federation.
"Also, their payroll deduction for pension benefits is going to jump from roughly $12,000 to $38,000," said Mr. Thomas. "So unless they can sneak a big raise for themselves past a suspicious electorate, their take home pay will be lower after the election. For some, it might make more financial sense to leave."
It is a decision that will greatly effect anyone under the age of 65 who is eligible for a pension regardless of whether it is a small pension or not.
Even those MPs who are now in their late 40s might think it's better to quit now in the knowledge that they have a full-pension bird in their hands when they are 55.
And there are a lot of them in that situation - 102 Tories, 23 New Democrats, and 21 Liberals which is nearly two-thirds of that caucus.
Oh, and here is a final bit of fun. All of the senators who were among those first appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper - including Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau - will become eligible for their pension in 2015 and can safely retire before the pension age eligibility moves up. That's pretty convenient for them, says the Taxpayers Federation, and it might give them a reason to stick it out just a year and half longer.
Explore the list of MPs and their pensions here.