Russell MacKinnon may be entitled to his entitlements, but…


If his latest poor-me pronouncements weren’t so outrageously obnoxious—not to mention flagrantly false—we would be wise to treat disgraced, and disgraceful former MLA Russell MacKinnon with the mocking contempt he’s richly earned.

The Finance Department made me do it… The Finance Department made me do it…

MacKinnon, one of four MLAs whose entitled-to-their-entitlements expense claims were so egregious they warranted actual criminal charges, arrived for his trial two week s ago, loudly proclaiming his innocence. Three days later, he copped a mid-trial plea like a common thief when it became clear he couldn’t sell his convoluted contortionist’s explanations for his bad behavior.

He pled guilty to one count of breach of trust and got a sweetheart deal. Four months’ house arrest, with numerous get-out-of-the-house free cards, four months’ curfew, a year’s probation.

Unfortunately for MacKinnon’s reputation—and our blood pressure—his sentence didn’t come with a muzzle.

MacKinnon has spent the past week playing the aggrieved. “I didn’t defraud the government of five cents, not a penny… I got the bejesus kicked out of me for the last three years over this, and I didn’t do anything wrong… I pleaded guilty to breach of trust because I believe MLAs are held to a higher standard, and I have to take responsibility even though the fault lies with the Department of Finance…”

Oh, let’s not bother responding to his truth twisting.

No wonder people are upset. No wonder the call by the we-hate-any-government-anywhere-anytime-anyway Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation to eliminate pension benefits for former MLAs convicted of crimes has traction.

But we need to pause, take a breath.

The real problem here isn’t with MLAs convicted of breaching their public trust continuing to draw pensions to which they contributed, and to which they—and, more importantly, their families—are legally entitled.

It’s with the MLA pensions themselves. By most anyone’s standards, they’re incredibly rich and wrongly funded out of regular operating revenues rather than investments.

By all means, let’s reform the MLA pension system.

But let’s not set a bad precedent by taking away someone’s legally earned pension benefits. There’s no telling where that could lead.

Let’s just accept that Russell MacKinnon’s behavior is beneath and beyond contempt—and move on to more important matters.

Like MLA pension reform.

  1. The outcry for revocation of his pension rights is, while understandable, misguided and not well thought out. Swift reactions such as we have witnessed tend to be less than rational.

    Generally speaking, legislation written in haste to mollify highly charged emotional public outrage is going to be poorly written and subject to lengthy and costly legal challenges. Playing to public anger may score points but it always leads to poor policy decisions.

    Best to allow a disinterested third party to determine pension issues, and the rest of us set about electing representatives that have the public good foremost in mind, and stop hoping and wishing that the usual suspects will have an epiphany on the road to Halifax.


  2. Great piece Kimber. I guess people would get uppity about the volatility of the markets (combined with short-term service) – but that’s what the rest of us have to deal with.

    I support MLA pension reform, but how do we ensure a really transparent process? Some kind of open commission – maybe get a former judge to oversee? You’d hope the province would re-direct some of its communication budget (which has increased dramatically in the past decade) towards this as well.


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