Premier Danielle Smith has announced that she would not instigate a referendum on whether Alberta should exit the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) until there is a concrete and final number indicating how much the province would benefit if it were independent.
Smith stated that Albertans are eager to know how this change might impact them financially, and therefore she would not propose a public vote without providing the necessary information for making an informed decision.
The culmination of this number may come through negotiation with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s administration and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, or it may need to be determined by legal arbitration. Smith warned that the matter might need to be settled in court, as it falls under the legislation of the CPP Act.
On the other side of the wall, Opposition NDP house leader Christina Gray articulated that Albertans deserve to have all relevant figures in their possession before casting their votes. She asserted her party’s intent to pressurize Smith to maintain her commitment on providing before-the-vote information.
Smith’s government has been in discussions with Albertans for over a month on the pros and cons of exiting the CPP and formulating an Alberta pension plan. It has proposed that Alberta is being undervalued by billions of dollars by the pension scheme, contributing far more than it reaps and would be better off going solo.
This debate was sparked on September 21 when Smith shared a report commissioned by the government from LifeWorks consultant. LifeWorks estimates Alberta would be eligible for approx 50% of all CPP assets, equating to $334 billion if it departs, given investment returns and compound interest.
Former provincial treasurer Jim Dinning has been hired to obtain Albertans’ perspectives on this matter before suggesting Smith on the province’s appetite for a CPP exit referendum next spring.
The Opposition party, the CPP board, and some participants in Dinning’s recent phone conferences have criticized the $7.5-million engagement process, labeling it as a camouflaged propaganda campaign set up to convince Albertans to back an Alberta pension plan.
Also this week, federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has consented to hold a meeting with provincial and territorial finance ministers to ponder over Alberta’s CPP withdrawal proposal. This decision was made in response to Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy’s letter to Freeland, expressing his concerns that Alberta’s withdrawal could cause severe long-term damage to working people and retirees in Ontario and across Canada.
Last week, Trudeau stated his government would fight to maintain the CPP’s stability and integrity, while Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre urged Albertans to remain in the federal pension plan.