Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Money and Politics: Resignation Announcements Hit Quebec Liberals Ahead of Fall Vote

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Money and Politics: Resignation Announcements Hit Quebec Liberals Ahead of Fall Vote

Article excerpt

Resignation announcements hit Quebec Liberals


MONTREAL - News that several Quebec Liberals won't seek re-election this year has fuelled speculation the governing party's boat is sinking, but former politicians caution against assuming that is the main reason behind the impending departures.

No fewer than 14 Liberal members of the legislature, including five cabinet ministers, have announced they won't seek re-election. Four others, including two ministers and the Speaker, are also said to be considering their political future ahead of the Oct. 1 vote.

While Premier Philippe Couillard's party is completing just its first mandate, the Liberals have been in power for 13 of the last 15 years and are polling consistently behind the Coalition Avenir Quebec.

Marlene Jennings, who represented a Montreal-area riding for the federal Liberals from 1997 to 2011, says money, rather than pessimistic readings of the polls, has more to do with some of the departures.

In late 2015, the legislature unanimously adopted a law removing the automatic right to a cash payment for retiring politicians.

Politicians in Quebec are given a so-called transition allowance based on their salary and time spent in office.

A veteran politician who has served in cabinet is eligible to receive up to about $167,000 in a lump sum payment or divided over a period of up to 36 months.

Before the rule change, some members would run for a second, third or fourth term and quit during their mandate, collecting the money and triggering a costly byelection.

The new rules stipulate departing members can only collect transition allowances if they complete their term in office, with strict exceptions.

"I think for some, (they are leaving) precisely because they aren't sure if their party will form the next government," Jennings said in an interview. "Maybe internal polls are showing their personal victory is not guaranteed."

But for others, "their decision (to retire) has been precipitated by a change in rules," she said.

"That is clearly, for some of them, why they are leaving now. If you step down before the end of your four-year mandate you get squat. …

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