Seven MPs accepted nearly $780,000 in transition allowances

WATCH: Global News is learning more about which federal politicians received hefty payouts when they left lower levels of government for Ottawa. Mike Le Couteur reports.

A total of seven former provincial and municipal politicians who were recently elected to the House of Commons accepted transition packages from their former employers before making the leap, Global News has learned.

All together, their allowances — which were completely legal and handed over when they voluntarily stepped down from their jobs to run federally — come in at just under $780,000 – all of which was bankrolled by taxpayers.

Six out of the seven are Liberals, and of those, two are cabinet ministers. Global News was able to confirm the numbers using publicly available documentation, or statements from the MPs and their staff.

The list of names and transition allowance totals is as follows:

  • Kent Hehr (Liberal cabinet minister) – $132,518.55
  • Amarjeet Sohi (Liberal cabinet minister) – $46,150
  • Stephane Lauzon (Liberal MP) – $67,471
  • Darshan Kang (Liberal MP) – $132,000
  • Jennifer O’Connell (Liberal MP) – $44,800
  • Dan Vandal (Liberal MP) – $30,000 approximately, according to Vandal
  • Len Webber (Conservative MP) – $324,119
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Hehr made no apologies for his choice to accept the money from the Alberta legislature.

“They are full well entitled to change that package at some point in time, and maybe the new (provincial) government will,” he said.

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The question of newly elected MPs accepting so-called transition allowances when moving directly from a political position at the municipal or provincial level to the federal chamber was first raised a few weeks ago when former Gatineau municipal councillor Stéphane Lauzon acknowledged that he had accepted $67,471 before moving into a job that pays nearly three times that amount.

Transition allowances are designed to assist people who lose their jobs, explained Gatineau mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin. He said he would look into changing the rules.

There are several MPs on the Hill who could have accepted similar packages, but chose not to do so. They include Liberal MPs Anthony Housefather and Ramez Ayoub, and NDP MP Jenny Kwan.

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“I actually do not know what I would have been entitled to, I simply refused the amount and I never asked what it would have been,” said Housefather, who served as a municipal politician in Montreal for more than 20 years — including a decade as mayor of Côte Saint-Luc while also holding down a job in the private sector.

“I think everybody makes their own judgement as to what they should do … for me, I’d rather leave it with the taxpayers.”

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Housefather was careful to add that he is “not going to criticize somebody who made a different choice.”

Yet another group, including Liberal MPs Jean-Claude Poissant and Pierre Breton, and Conservative MP Alain Rayes did take the money, but said they donated it to charities or non-profit organizations.

Aaron Wudrick, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, said people who choose to leave their job shouldn’t ask to be bankrolled by taxpayers.

“I think a lot of taxpayers would have some very hard questions for these folks, to ask them where they think they get off collecting money for severance when they in fact have taken a new job immediately, and at a higher pay rate,” Wudrick said. “I think we should expect better of our elected officials.”

The fact that a significant number of those who took money are Liberals speaks to the fact that there are far more new Liberals in the House than new MPs in other parties. Still, it’s bad optics for a government that is emphasizing ethics, Wudrick said.

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“I think they need to ask some of these people in their own caucus hard questions about whether it’s appropriate to take this money or not.”

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With files from Leslie Whyte and Rebecca Lindell.