OTTAWA – Three Senate staffers are walking away from the upper chamber with a sweeter severance than others.
The three staffers all worked in the office of outgoing government leader in the Senate, Conservative senator Claude Carignan.
All three will be leaving with three months’ worth of severance pay instead of the standard two weeks,’ as outlined in their offer of employment.
It’s closer to what ministerial staffers get as severance, but the disparity highlights anomalies in Senate policy, which isn’t in keeping with Ontario labour law.
The Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration decided to grant the extra severance pay in a closed-door meeting on Dec. 10, 2015.
It’s unclear who brought the issue to the committee.
“The amount of termination pay is determined on a case-by-case basis,” said Senate administration in a statement, noting that delivering two weeks’ notice of termination or pay in lieu of notice regardless of the length of employment is “not in keeping with Ontario Labour Standards.”
These standards require different amounts of severance pay depending on the length of employment, among other things.
The Senate is reviewing the policy on employee severance to bring it in line with what’s currently in place in Ministers’ offices and the House of Commons – about three to four months for Ministerial staffers.
Until the Senate changes its policy, it’s up to the Internal Economy committee to decide how much severance each staffer receives on a case-by-case basis.
NDP member of Parliament Daniel Blaikie said the current system amounts to patronage.
“This sounds like a decision to just help their friends out,” he said.
If there’s a problem with the policy and the Senate wants a public review, that’s one thing, he said. “But not cutting deals behind closed doors before reviews of policies have taken place.”
Global News reached out to several members of the committee.
Many refused to comment, re-directing questions to the office of the committee chair Conservative senator Leo Housakos, or Senate media relations.
Aaron Wudrick, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said he can’t believe that the Senate hasn’t learned its lesson after an expense scandal and critical Auditor General’s report.
“No matter how many times they promise ‘we’ll fix it ourselves,’ what’s the result? It’s this. Nothing ever really changes,” he said.
“I think Canadians expect this sort of thing to be above-board and transparent – and the other thing is this is not a rule that is going to apply across the board. There’s a select few people who benefit here.”