When it was disclosed last month that Henri-Paul Rousseau had received $378,750 in severance pay when he resigned as president of the Caisse de dépôt last August, the finance critic for Mario Dumont’s Action démocratique du Québec called it "incredible." After all, Rousseau had quit voluntarily, to take another job. And in the private sector in such circumstances, it’s highly unusual to receive severance pay. Still, the ADQ finance critic, François Bonnardel, shouldn’t have been shocked to learn that such perks exist in Quebec’s public sector.
In fact, when Bonnardel leaves the National Assembly, he will be entitled to a "transition allowance" that is proportionately much more generous than the severance pay Rousseau received.While Rousseau’s severance pay amounted to one-fifth of his total pay for the previous year, Bonnardel will be entitled to at least a third of his salary. And, after six years in the Assembly, he’ll be entitled to the maximum of a full year’s pay.
In fact, in some circumstances, it’s even possible for an MNA to collect more in severance pay by resigning his seat than he would have been paid for sitting for another year. Take Bonnardel’s own boss. Mario Dumont has announced that he will resign from the Assembly as well as from the leadership of the ADQ effective March 6. Like Rousseau when he quit, Dumont has already lined up a position in the private sector, in his case on the TQS trash-TV network.
Dumont is currently receiving a salary of $83,714 a year as an MNA. In addition, the Assembly says he receives an "entitlement" of $29,300 as leader of a third party, even though the seven-member ADQ caucus has not yet been officially recognized as such. But his transition allowance will be his total salary for the 12 months preceding his resignation. And for the first nine of those months, until the Dec. 8 election, Dumont was leader of the official opposition, with a higher entitlement of $62,786.
So he will be entitled to $25,000 more in transition allowance than he would have received in salary and entitlement for sitting in the Assembly as a third-party leader for another year. Even taking into account the MNA’s tax-free expense allowance of $14,983 and the tax savings on it, Dumont would still come out nearly $3,000 ahead.
Dumont announced his intention to resign as ADQ leader on election night without setting a date. The sooner he made good on his intention, however, the more financially advantageous for him it would be. His voluntary resignation from the Assembly will be the 70th in the past half-century, according to the Assembly’s website - and the third earliest in the member’s term.
In one interview this week, Dumont said he decided to resign shortly after the leaders’ debate 13 days before the election. Yet he continued to allow his constituents in Rivière-du-Loup riding to believe they would be re-electing him for a normal four-year term. Now he is about to break his moral contract with them by walking out just after the beginning of the mandate they granted him.
The champion of individual and fiscal responsibility will leave them without representation for up to seven months, until he is replaced in a by-election at a cost of about $500,000 in public funds. This is in addition to the golden parachute worth nearly $140,000 the taxpayers will provide him. It’s become too easy - and in Dumont’s case, even profitable - for an MNA to bail out. A taxpayers’ organization called the Ligue des contribuables du Québec has said MNAs who resign voluntarily should forfeit the transition allowance. This week, the same organization chose Rousseau for one of its 2008 Glouton (glutton) awards for wasting public funds by accepting his severance pay.
Is it too early to nominate Dumont for this year ?