Alberta's NDP leader Rachel Notley said the UCP government needs to quit pursuing an Alberta Pension Plan (APP) as part of its push for greater autonomy from the federal government.
Notley said her party would not endorse the APP, which the Alberta government has been studying for almost three years without resolution, adding it needs to release the long-promised report for public consumption.
"We are very concerned that this UCP government is sitting on a self-interested report that they are hiding from Albertans because they don’t want this to be an election issue, but they still plan to go ahead with it should they get elected," Notley told reporters Thursday.
In March 2021, then-Premier Jason Kenney said work on the report was near completion, and his government was mere weeks away from announcing the next steps.
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, who took over from Kenney as UCP leader in October, asked Finance Minister Travis Toews to continue with the pension report.
In December, Smith said she hoped a referendum might be possible with the May election but has since said the province would not likely make getting out of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) a ballot question for the general election.
Albertans are set to hit the polls on May 29, 2023.
"It’s unlikely to be held in May … We want to make sure people understand the implications and the cost, and it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to roll that out that quickly, but I wanted to make sure people knew that if we did proceed with the decision, then it would be up to the people, as the Fair Deal Panel had recommended to us," she said.
Notley responded, "If this UCP government continues to toy with this risky gamble to undermine the security of Albertans’ pensions, they should come clean on that."
Smith added that Finance Minister Travis Toews is completing the report and would have more to say in 2023.
Her office confirmed that work continues on a third-party analysis of the APP.
"While the initial analysis looks favourable, the Office of the Chief Actuary of Canada recently tabled updated asset figures for the CPP, and the third-party expert authoring the report requires additional time to update its findings,” said spokeswoman Rebecca Polak in a statement.
"When the expert informs us the final report is ready, it will be released publicly."
Polak added that the report would be the first step of many for when Albertans determine the appropriate course of action.
"The government of Alberta will not replace the CPP with an Alberta Pension Plan unless Albertans first vote to do so in a provincewide referendum," she said. "It's Albertans' pension — it must be Albertans’ choice."
The long-awaited report follows the May 2020 Fair Deal Panel report under then-Premier Jason Kenney, urging the province to explore the idea as part of its push for greater autonomy from the federal government.
However, Notley claims the idea of a provincial pension plan makes for poor economic policy and is opposed by most Albertans.
According to the panel, Alberta has among the youngest populations in Canada, making an APP a "multibillion-dollar net benefit."
But only 42% of the respondents in the Fair Deal Panel's survey endorsed the idea in May 2020.
And in December, the Alberta Chambers of Commerce surveyed that most business owners believe leaving CPP for an Alberta plan would disadvantage them over the next three to five years.
Smith countered that Albertans are over-contributing to the CPP and need to explore an alternative that could leave more money in the hands of Alberta seniors.
The Alberta pension plan is among a suite of measures explored by Smith’s government to carve out more autonomy for Alberta within Canada.
The Premier made it clear her intent to work collaboratively with Justice Minister Tyler Shandro in drafting and legislating a framework where the province can mount a response to "unconstitutional federal encroachments on provincial jurisdiction."
The first legislation passed under her premiership is Bill 1, The Alberta Sovereignty Within a United Canada Act, which legislators can use to introduce motions on items they perceive exemplifies federal overreach into provincial jurisdiction, causing "harm."
Smith clarified that the bill is not a precursor to separation and that her government would abide by Supreme Court rulings on matters presented to the highest court in the land.
Under her instruction, the province is also researching its provincial police force to replace the RCMP and tax revenue collecting agency.