Julie Payette must have the impression of having won the lottery.
Although she shamefully resigned as Governor General in the middle allegations of creating a toxic workplace, she is still entitled to the Cadillac of all pension plans, thanks to all of us taxpayers.
First, there is retirement. To $150,000 per year is generous enough to place any former governor general among the best five percent employees in the country. And that doesn’t take into account any other income they might get from any other job or investment they might have.
It’s not like Governors General have to work long and hard to qualify either. The term of a Governor General is generally five years. Payette served just over three years and she is still receiving a full pension.
Even by government standards, it’s rich. A winning federal bureaucrat $309,000 per year — the same level as a Governor General — would have to wait 27 years to get a similar pension. And unlike governors general, they must contribute to their pension fund.
Then there are the expense reports. Even in retirement, Governors General can continue to bill taxpayers for up to $206,000 per year each for travel, hotel and a private office.
And as if a lifetime expense account wasn’t enough, documents obtained by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation show that a Governor General’s estate can continue to submit receipts for up to six months after his death.
And they do it with very little transparency. The only reason Canadians are aware of this policy is that former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson spent over $100,000 some years, which required its own line in the public accounts. Since leaving office in 2004, Clarkson has asked us to cover more than $1.1 million in expenses.
Canadians are understandably outraged by this policy. A recent Leger poll commissioned by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation shows that almost eight out of 10 Canadians want the policy abandoned.
Even federal bureaucrats found him a little rich. A report prepared for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in October 2019 recommended that rights “end after a set number of years of leaving office rather than the current regime for life.”
What has Trudeau done with these recommendations over the past two years? Nothing. They gathered dust somewhere in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Let’s be clear; it’s not as if changing this policy would require long debates or weeks of hard work by highly paid political advisers.
Post-retirement expenditure accounts for Governors General are not enshrined in law. This is an administrative policy that stems from a cabinet decision in 1979.
As such, getting rid of it does not involve lengthy debates and readings in Parliament, but rather a quick decision by government ministers to scrap it. This shouldn’t take much longer than two minutes at the next cabinet meeting.
The fact is that when the country faces a $144.5 billion deficit, our government should do everything possible to identify where it can save money.
Limiting the rights we give to former Governors General should be one of those easy decisions. We know it’s popular — eight out of 10 Canadians want it. We know that the bureaucrats who have looked at it think it is out of whack. It is also something that Trudeau has promised to review in 2018.
The only thing left for us to ask ourselves is what is the blockage in the cabinet?