Halifax councillor thinks pension plan should be mandatory – Nova Scotia

A long-time Halifax councillor thinks it should be mandatory for elected officials to participate in the municipality’s pension plan, and he regrets not signing up when he had the chance.

At next week’s regional council meeting, District 2 Coun. David Hendsbee will ask for a staff report on pensions “as it relates to those councillors (past and present) that did not have sufficient information to opt in and now want to do so, with a matching municipal contribution to buy back time of service.”

Hendsbee said during an interview that he’s one of those councillors who didn’t have enough information the first time he had the chance to enrol in the plan.

Going it alone for 20 years

Unlike all other municipal employees, it isn’t mandatory for elected officials to participate in the city’s pension plan. Hendsbee, who’s been a municipal councillor the better part of 20 years, only enrolled in the plan after the last municipal election.

For 20 years he’s been taking care of his own retirement savings, he said. Rather than buying back time — he’s been told it would cost $31,000 to buy back one year — Hendsbee would like the municipality to match a contribution to his own plan.

“Why do I have to buy it all by myself and not have a matching contribution, whereas if I was in [the plan] 20 years ago, HRM would have put in a matching contribution anyway. So why can’t they do it postscript, after the fact?”

Time for restitution

He isn’t sure how many past or present councillors would be eligible for such an idea, nor how many are presently involved in the pension plan.

If anything, Hendsbee said by not participating in the plan he and any other councillors in a similar position have saved the municipality money because there were no matching contributions to make.

“That money went to other things, be it roads, be it infrastructure and other community projects,” he said.

“Perhaps it might be a time to do some restitution there. I’ve done my public time and service as well and if I made a mistake, is there a way I can correct that mistake?”

2 political regrets

Hendsbee is experienced enough in politics to know how talk of pensions for public officials can be received.

But he said when the plan was first introduced there wasn’t that much information provided and he wasn’t at a point in his life where he gave it much thought.

“The only two regrets I have in politics, I guess you could say, is not enrolling in the pension plan the first time and second was asking for this report.”

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