The Liberal infrastructure minister took home more than $46,150 in “transition compensation” when he jumped from Edmonton city council to the House of Commons last fall, Global News has confirmed.
Amarjeet Sohi acknowledged on Thursday that he accepted the payment upon being elected as MP for Edmonton Mill Woods, and makes no apologies for it.
“The severance package in my situation is based on years of service,” Sohi said. “I think it’s three weeks for every year you serve.”
Edmonton’s current city clerk said what Sohi would have been entitled to as a sitting councillor was a form of transitional allowance. In 2006, the Council Compensation Committee recommended transition allowances be increased from two weeks of salary per year of service to three weeks.
“When a city councillor leaves service of the city of Edmonton, they’re entitle to receive a transition allowance of three weeks of salary for every year of service to the city,” Linda Sahli, city clerk for the City of Edmonton said. “In Councillor Sohi’s case, he’s served the city of Edmonton for eight years.”
Sahli pointed out a transitional allowance is not the same as severance pay.
“It’s to facilitate a councillor’s re-rentry into the workforce after they have served the city of Edmonton.”
The question of municipal and provincial politicians accepting severance or “transition” packages when making the move to Ottawa has been top of mind this week, with The Globe and Mail reporting on Wednesday that former Gatineau city councillor Stéphane Lauzon had accepted a retirement allowance of $12,931 and a transition allowance of $56,540 when he quit his job to take a new one on Parliament Hill.
Lauzon won the riding of Argenteuil-La Petite-Nation for the Liberals on Oct. 19, and has since been appointed parliamentary secretary for sport and persons with disabilities. His duties earn him a total salary of $184,000 per year.
Gatineau mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin said Lauzon followed the rules, but that transition money is supposed to be for people who lose a job — not those who move on to a new one.
“It’s not the choice I would have made,” Pedneaud-Jobin said. “Legally it’s justifiable, he’s entitled to that … it’s an issue that we’ll have to solve for the next election. So we’re going to change the rules in Gatineau for that not to happen anymore.”
On Thursday, several Opposition MPs said they believe the lack of remorse from Sohi and Lauzon will strike a chord with Canadians.
“Certainly it’s not illegal … but it does strike people as a bit, double-dipping almost,” said the NDP’s Nathan Cullen.
Conservative MP Gerald Deltel refused his package when he left Quebec provincial politics. According to Deltel, he knew his federal salary would be generous
“If you receive this kind of money, it’s a very good indication that you are not here for the right reasons,” he said.
Lauzon refused a request from Global News for an interview, but in a statement said he was simply following the rules in place.
Sohi’s decision to accept his transition allowance generated a mixed response on social media.
— With files from Monique Muise
Watch below: News that federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi accepted a $46,000 transition allowance when he left Edmonton’s city council, garnered a mixed reaction on Thursday. Shallima Maharaj reports.
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