Alberta pauses consultations on pension plan, wants updated asset transfer figure from Ottawa

Among 392 Albertans, 48% want to remain in the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) with 36% in favour of a provincial pension plan, according to the Angus Reid Institute. The next most supportive province is Québec (32%), who has operated its own pension plan since 1966.

Alberta pauses consultations on pension plan, wants updated asset transfer figure from Ottawa
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Alberta has paused consultations on its proposed pension plan until Canada’s chief actuary provides the province with updated asset transfer figures.

"It is hard for Albertans to provide concrete perspectives when many variables concerning an Alberta plan depend upon the size of that asset transfer," said Jim Dinning, pension engagement panel chair. He told reporters Friday that further dialogue cannot be had until that amount is known. 

According to the government-commissioned LifeWorks report, Alberta should receive $334 billion from the Canada Pension Plan’s (CPP) net assets — a figure that struck Dinning as "gobsmacking."

Experts, including economists, other provincial premiers and the CPP Investment Board have put the figure much lower.

According to a new Angus Reid Institute poll, the size of that asset transfer is driving skepticism in Alberta embracing its own pension plan. 

"We put the question to Albertans, specifically, and also to Canadians across the country, around would you want to see this not only for Alberta but for your own province specifically," said Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute.

The proposal garnered less than one-third support from Québec (32%) and Saskatchewan (31%), whereas more than half of Canadians elsewhere opposed the idea. The former has operated its own pension plan since 1966.

Among Albertans, 48% want to remain in the CPP with 36% in favour of a provincial pension plan. One in five (18%) are undecided as of writing.

"Canadians and Albertans themselves are pretty skeptical as to whether that would be the number that Ottawa says, 'Sure, you can take this amount, you can take this 53 percent,'" said Kurl. The online survey represents a randomized sample of 3,749 Canadian adults, including 392 Albertans. 

Finance Minister Nate Horner and Premier Danielle Smith are open to hearing what the CPP thinks is a more reasonable figure.

"We know the chief actuary has better data than the publicly available data LifeWorks had to use," said Horner. "But as far as the timeline, I think any speculation would be kind of challenging at this point."

Horner wrote to federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland last week asking for a timeline on those details. She has since asked the chief actuary to perform the analysis. 

Dinning said the panel will hold in-person meetings next year upon receipt of that information.

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