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Albertans Call for Provincial Pension Plan in Feedback Session
EDMONTON, 16th November 2023 –
The panel responsible for gathering feedback on whether Alberta should withdraw from the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) received overwhelming support for a provincial pension plan during its latest telephone town hall on Thursday. The panel, led by former provincial treasurer Jim Dinning, heard from numerous callers who argued that it was time for the province to prioritize the interests of Albertans.
One caller, identified as Gary from Sherwood Park, highlighted the billions of dollars in equalization payments that Alberta already sends away and saw the establishment of a provincial pension plan as an opportunity for Albertans to reclaim their financial independence. Similarly, caller Darlene expressed her belief that Alberta is taken for granted by Ottawa and urged fellow Albertans to stand up for themselves. She also called on Premier Danielle Smith’s government to reassure citizens who are hesitant about change.
The issue of contributions and benefits was also raised, with caller Keith pointing out that Albertans are paying more into the CPP than they are receiving. He argued that the prospect of lower contributions and higher benefits from an Alberta pension plan made it a “no-brainer” for the province.
During the 90-minute telephone town hall, the panel received a total of thirteen calls, with seven in support of an Alberta plan and six against it. Three of the six callers who opposed the plan questioned the need to fix something that they believed was not broken. Caller Patrick from St. Albert, who also opposed leaving the CPP, sought clarification on whether there had been a survey conducted to gauge public interest in an Alberta pension plan.
In response, Dinning explained that the government’s consultation stemmed from the Fair Deal panel’s recommendations in 2020, which called for an exploration of a stand-alone plan. He assured callers that Albertans would have the chance to voice their opinion through a referendum if it came to that. However, Dinning and fellow panel member Moin Yahya omitted mentioning the Fair Deal panel’s telephone survey of 1,000 Albertans, which found that only 42% believed quitting the CPP would help secure a better deal from Ottawa.
Technical concerns regarding the logistics of an Alberta plan were also raised. Callers asked about who would run the plan, the transition process from the CPP, portability, and how it would align with other retirement benefits.
The final telephone town hall is scheduled for November 22nd, focusing on central Alberta. The panel has promised to hold in-person town halls next month to further engage with the public.
Alberta’s consultation on a provincial pension plan was launched on September 21st, following a government-commissioned report that suggested Alberta could set up its own plan due to its higher incomes and younger population. The report estimated that Alberta is owed $334 billion, over half of the CPP’s total assets, if it were to withdraw from the plan.
The panel, led by Jim Dinning, will provide advice to Premier Danielle Smith in the spring based on Albertans’ feedback. Smith will then decide whether to proceed with a referendum on the issue. Other provinces have expressed concerns about the potential impact on the CPP if Alberta were to leave, prompting federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland to seek an estimate from the chief actuary. Smith has warned that if an agreement cannot be reached, the matter may have to be resolved through the courts, a process that could take several years.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 16, 2023.
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press