News / Calgary

Calgary taxpayers footing bulk of council pension: Tax watchdog

Nearly 5-to-1 ratio of tax dollars to councillor dollars in pension says CTF.

Calgary taxpayers are paying out councillor pensions at nearly a five-to-one rate, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Metro Calgary file photo

Calgary taxpayers are paying out councillor pensions at nearly a five-to-one rate, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

A Canadian tax watchdog is calling on Calgary's politicians to cut back on their generous taxpayer-funded pension plans.

A report released Tuesday by the Canadian Taxpayer Federation found that civic taxes contributed more than $5.8 million to the city in the last decade while councillors only contributed $1.2 million. 

“It's a very costly pension plan, it's simply not fair for taxpayers given many of them don't have a pension plan," said CTF Interim Alberta Director Colin Craig. “It’s time to shut down the costly pension and put council members in a less costly plan.”

Filing a Freedom of Information Request, the CTF was also trying to get information about the Supplementary Pension Plan for Elected Officials of the City of Calgary, a plan they said is fully taxpayer funded.

CTF hasn't received a response about their FOIP request, but Craig said they felt taxpayers deserved to know the truth about the pension contribution imbalance during an election period.

Coun. Andre Chabot, who is vying for the mayoral chair, said from what he understood the city's pension plan was a one to one contribution already. He noted that Calgary's council should be a leader in the matter.

Bill Smith, another mayoral candidate said this is synonymous to elected officials getting better deals than city employees would get.

"Frankly, I think that's wrong," Smith said. "If you're in public service part of it is service and it shouldn't be for necessarily obtaining a great pension."

Smith said he'd absolutely look at the current pension plan and compare it to other markets to keep it competitive. He said the pension plan is an example of more tax dollars going out the door, which is not something the city should be doing.

"To be clear, this problem didn't originate with this council, they didn't set up the pension plan, but they haven't done anything to fix the situation," said Craig.

Craig said in Edmonton the pension plan for politicians isn't as "rich" as Calgary's. In Edmonton, there is no defined benefit pension plan, according to CTF, which is more in line with the public sector.

Chabot said as long as the CTF was comparing apples to apples if Calgary is indeed behind Edmonton's policies the pension plan should be looked at.

The group found that for every dollar contributed by the councillors, taxpayers kicked in nearly $5. 

The CTF is calling on councillors to rejig their pension plan to make contributions on a one dollar to one dollar basis. 

Until council can look at their own pensions, Craig said they won't have the moral authority to address the civil service pension plans, taxpayer contributions which CTF found grew from $54 million to $152 between 2007 and 2016 – that's 181 per cent.

Naheed Nenshi, the incumbent mayor, was not made available for comment on the matter.

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