Seeking re-election costs Rathgeber a pretty penny

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By running in the current election, incumbent Independent MP Brent Rathgeber is putting just over a half a million dollars on the line.

Under new pension rules that come into effect Jan. 1, 2016, parliamentarians won’t be able to collect their full pensions until age 65.

Current MPs who have served six years or more in office are still eligible to access their full benefits at 55, but only if their names aren’t on the ballot or they lose their riding on Oct. 19.

While many veteran MPs have chosen to step down this term and will be able to collect lucrative pensions before these changes take hold, for Rathgeber it’s not all about the money.

Rathgeber, 51, will have represented the voters of St. Albert for seven years come October.

If he were to hang up his proverbial hat or lose the upcoming election, Rathgeber would qualify for his full pension in four years time – racking up around $50,000 a year for the rest of his life. But if he resumes his seat on the backbench, he will be governed by the new rules and will have to wait until his 65th birthday to start collecting.

While there is the argument to be made that his pension will accrue substantially should he continue to serve past the next term, if successful in seeking re-election Rathgeber would lose out on a decade’s worth of annual pension payments – amounting to a loss of just over $500,000.

“You can read into that that I’m not doing this for my own personal or financial benefit,” Rathgeber told the Gazette. “I’m doing it because I believe in the causes that I fight for, like representative democracy and putting constituents before party. I’ve always looked at politics as being public service.”

Worst – and most likely – case scenario, says Rathgeber, he will only serve until April when the minority-government-to-be is dissolved in a vote of non-confidence as it tries to pass the 2016 budget.

Then he’ll really have made a blunder.

But Rathgeber doesn’t seem too worried. He says he’s made a good living as a lawyer before he entered the political realm and will continue to do so once he leaves it, however soon that may be.

“I’ve always looked at this as public service; I’ve never done this for financial purposes,” said Rathgeber. “If I was career-minded I probably never would have left the Conservative caucus, because that would have been an easy ticket to re-election.”

Rathgeber left the Conservative party very publicly in 2012.

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Michelle Ferguson