Liberal candidate Raj Saini will receive a $93,000 “golden goodbye” after withdrawing his candidacy following several sexual misconduct allegations levied against the incumbent. The former MP for Kitchener Centre vehemently denies claims he harassed a female staff member.
An internal investigation into a complaint by the House of Commons found "nothing arose regarding concerns of harassment in the office." But last week, the Commons’ most senior official announced his intention to launch a review of the handling of the complaint to see if there are any shortcomings in the way the investigation was conducted.
However, CBC reported the woman who brought forward the harassment allegations was not interviewed and only offered mediation as an option.
Saini, 54, did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.
Despite the allegations, Saini is entitled to a $92,900 severance cheque, worth half his $185,800 MP’s salary. He could also access a $15,000 allowance for departing MPs, which includes the cost of shredding papers, getting financial advice and trips to and from Ottawa, reported Global News.
But he missed out on a pension only available to MPs 55 or older and with at least six years tenure in public office. Taxpayers are expected to foot a hefty bill for "golden goodbyes" for MPs who retire or lose their seats after the election.
After the 2019 election, 94 MPs collected $5.8 million in severance payments, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF), which analyzed the payouts.
The CTF said that given the federal government's $1-trillion debt there needs to be a broader discussion around reforming member of Parliament pay and benefits, including pensions and severance.
"Ottawa's pay and perks need to be more fair taxpayers," said Franco Terrazzano, Federal Director with the CTF. "There's one trillion reasons why taxpayers shouldn't be paying huge severance cheques to politicians, and we also shouldn't be on the hook for lavish pensions when the vast majority of Canadians working outside of government aren't covered by a workplace pension."
Terrazzano said the reforms should include moving new MPs into a matching RRSP style pension and reversing the pay hikes that occurred during the pandemic. All MPs received two pay raises during COVID-19, ranging from $6,900 for a backbench MP to $13,800 for the prime minister.
Terrazzano suggested rollbacks of the two MP pay raises provided during the pandemic. MPs are eligible for raises each year on April 1, based on the average annual increase in private-sector union contracts with corporations that have more than 500 employees.
The basic MP salary is $182,600, while ministers receive $269,800 and the prime minister receives $365,200 annually.
All retiring MPs or those who lose the election, and don’t qualify for a pension, will be entitled to severance pay. However, several MPs elected in 2015 who would have qualified for a pension on October 19 — six years after the 2015 election date — would miss out.
On the allegations, Saini said he could not discuss them publicly because of privacy concerns. He said of the claim he is aware of, they are "unequivocally false."
Seven sources with knowledge of the claims divulged four different instances of Saini allegedly making unwanted sexual advances or inappropriate comments.
A former senior staffer filed a Canadian Human Rights Commission complaint against Saini alleging unwelcome advances and harassing behaviour.
Saini also supposedly followed another junior Liberal staffer around at several functions and asked for her phone number.
In a third case, a female employee reported she felt very uneasy about Saini calling her to his Ottawa office late at night and brought an employee with her from another MP's office. Hence, she wasn't alone with him, according to another source.
Reports by the CBC also found that one staffer who complained to staff about harassment attempted to take her own life in Saini's office last year.
Liberal whip Mark Holland warned that a "trial" was taking place in which Saini could not answer back.