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Alberta promises to ‘hear everyone out’ as legislation tabled for provincial pension plan

Alberta Finance Minister Nate Horner said he is prepared to listen to the perspectives of other provincial finance ministers on Alberta’s potential withdrawal from the Canada Pension Plan.

“I want to make clear that we want to hear everyone out,” he told reporters at a news conference Thursday morning. A few hours later, Horner tabled legislation that lays the groundwork for an Alberta pension plan.

Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland is meeting virtually with her provincial and territorial counterparts on Friday morning to discuss the issue.

Horner said he expects ministers will share comments starting with those from provinces on the east side of the country and proceeding west. 

“So I imagine we’ll get to do some listening at the start and hear their perspective,” he said. 

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley told CBC News expects Freeland will get “an earful” from ministers across the political spectrum who are concerned about risks for retirees.

“I don’t think [Horner’s] going to find a whole heck of a lot of support for their ridiculous position,” she said.

The legislation sets out the conditions under which an Alberta pension plan could be established and the rules that would apply to a referendum.

“This legislation is intended to alleviate concerns raised about the risks moving forward,” Horner told reporters.

Bill 2, the Alberta Pension Protection Act, provides four guarantees:

  • The government won’t establish a provincial pension plan unless Albertans vote for it in a referendum.
  • The provincial plan must provide the same or better benefits than the CPP.
  • Contribution rates must be the same or lower for a provincial plan.
  • All assets transferred from the CPP would be used to set up and operate the provincial pension plan.

Horner said discussion about the idea “has been loud and passionate” and many Albertans are still learning about the issue.

Some experts have critiqued a government-commissioned report that claimed Alberta would be entitled to more than half of the CPP’s assets.

According to a recent Abacus Data survey, more than half of Albertans think withdrawing from the CPP is a bad or very bad idea. 

In a letter to Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, Freeland said withdrawing from the CPP could put Albertans’ retirements at risk. 

“While Alberta has a right to withdraw should it so choose, Albertans deserve to know that doing so would be a historic, costly and irreversible mistake,” Freeland wrote. 

Horner said the government will base its decision on whether to move forward with a referendum on “a lot of objective tools,” including public consultation that will continue until the spring.

Alberta must give the federal government a three-year notice before withdrawing from the CPP. 

Officials at a media briefing about the legislation said a referendum would likely occur one year after the vote is announced. 

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