Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre wants Alberta to stay in the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), though he understands why they would leave amid tensions boiling over with the federal government.
“The division today on the CPP is entirely the result of Justin Trudeau attacking the Alberta economy,” he told the National Post, lambasting the prime minister’s “unconstitutional anti-development laws” and “painful carbon taxes” on worsening relations with the Prairie province.
“[He has] forced Albertans to look for ways to get some of their money back,” claimed Poilievre.
“We would not be having this debate if I were today prime minister because Alberta would be free from carbon taxes, unconstitutional anti-energy laws, and other unfair wealth transfers.”
Poilievre’s remarks are in response to a fiery exchange between Trudeau and Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, who sent each other strongly worded letters on the pension plan debate.
According to a letter penned by Trudeau on October 17, leaving the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) would cause “undeniable” harm to Albertans and Canadians.
“Protecting, and building upon, this model is something the federal government takes very seriously,” he said, vowing to defend the CPP “against any actions that would threaten its certainty and stability.”
Smith said October 20 that she appreciated Poilievre’s “tone and sentiment” on the federal government’s treatment of her province, condemning the “multiple destructive policies [of] the Liberal-NDP coalition.”
On the Alberta Pension Plan (APP), she said Albertans have the opportunity to discuss how best to “improve the lives of our seniors and workers without risk to the pensions of fellow Canadians.”
The Alberta government commenced October 16 a broad consultation process with taxpayers on shifting to a provincial pension. A provincial referendum is expected for an undisclosed date next year.
On September 21, Smith and her Finance Minister, Nate Horner, tabled an independent pension report that claimed Alberta could be entitled to $334 billion of the CPP’s assets should it withdraw — more than half its total assets.
According to the CPP Investment Board, the national pension fund has $575 billion under management.
CPP Investments and federal Cabinet ministers have contested that figure, which is “equal to Albertans’ contributions, less benefit payments and expenses accumulated with net investment earnings” since 1966.
“I don’t buy the math,” Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault told reporters October 18. “I think there are some problems with the math that got us to this point.”
He called Alberta’s report “flawed” and warned the feds would crunch their numbers “very carefully over the next year, quite frankly, if Alberta pulls out of the Canada Pension Plan.”
Smith threatened Ottawa with “serious legal and political consequences” should they undermine her province’s constitutional authority over pensions.
“Any attempt to do so will be seen as [an] attack on the constitutional and legal rights of Alberta and met with serious legal and political consequences,” she said. “If Albertans choose to withdraw from CPP, I expect that [Trudeau] will respect their choice.”