HALIFAX - Nova Scotia taxpayers are contributing millions each year to pensions for politicians which are the richest in Atlantic Canada, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

The non-profit advocacy group opened its Atlantic office Tuesday with the release of a report calling for major changes to the way pensions are funded for the 52 members of the provincial legislature.

"The MLA pension program is so rich that for every $1 contributed by a politician the taxpayers contribute $22 towards their retirement — this amounts to $11 million a year," said Kevin Lacey, the group's new Atlantic Canada director.

The group said the calculation included interest.

The study says the 24 legislature members eligible for pension benefits stand to take in more than $23 million should they all live to age 75.

Among those are Premier Darrell Dexter and Liberal member Wayne Gaudet, who would pocket more than $2 million — the most among their colleagues, according to the group's estimates.

Lacey, who served as an adviser in the office of former Nova Scotia premier John Hamm and worked in the Prime Minister's Office under Stephen Harper, said the report makes three key recommendations.

They include replacing the current pension program with an RRSP-style defined contribution plan where contributions would be reduced to dollar-for-dollar between taxpayers and politicians and the creation of a citizens' panel to examine legislature members pay and benefits.

And in a nod towards Nova Scotia's constituency expense scandal, Lacey said new legislation should also be passed ensuring that any member found guilty of a criminal offence related to their job would retroactively lose eligibility for severance and pension benefits.

The RCMP is investigating one sitting member and five former politicians after audit files were turned over by the province's auditor general.

"The pension program is so flush with taxpayer money ... that at this point if they (members) have been known to abuse that power while in office they don't deserve to have the generosity of that money," Lacey said.

Lacey urged Nova Scotians to make their voices heard at the legislature in order to bring about change.

"Unless people are pushing, change isn't going to happen," he said.

The NDP government declined to comment on the report, saying it needed more time to review the findings.

"We want to review it carefully before commenting on its contents," caucus chairwoman Vicki Conrad said in an email.

Interim Conservative Leader Jaimie Baillie said while he supports the creation of a citizens' panel to examine how members are compensated, he wants more time to consider the group's pension recommendation.

"It's one option, but I'm open to all reasonable options because there are a variety of pension plans in the private sector," he said.

The Liberals were unavailable for comment.

The taxpayers federation will release a similar report Wednesday in New Brunswick, although the group declined to release any early figures for comparison.

"All I will say is that it isn't as big as this (Nova Scotia's plan)," said federal director Kevin Gaudet.

Under their defined benefit program, Nova Scotia politicians must contribute 10 per cent of their salary each year to a maximum of 15 years.

In order to qualify they must serve a minimum of five years in at least two general assemblies and must be 55 years old to begin collecting. They can get their pension as early as 45, but must reduce their amount payable in order to collect.