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TheRockies.Life Staff

Dialling for Dollars: Alberta’s Premature Pension Party!

Are the UCP telephone town halls on the Alberta Pension Plan about spending money that does not exist?

Imagine this scenario.

You buy a lottery ticket, and when the winning numbers are announced, you learn that the winner is from Alberta!

Rather than check your lotto numbers to see if you are the winner, you call all your relatives on the phone to discuss how you’ll spend the winnings.

That’s precisely what the UCP government is doing with their scheduled telephone town halls with Albertans to discuss how their windfall from the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) will be spent in their proposed Alberta Pension Plan (APP).

There is a big problem with this scenario: you’re unlikely to be the lucky winner of the lottery, just as Alberta is unlikely to get a windfall from Albertizing their pension money. 

In case you haven’t heard, below is a quick summary of the backstory:

The Lottery Numbers

Premier Danielle Smith believes that Alberta is entitled to a significant portion of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) assets. She claims Alberta should get $334 billion, which is 53% of the CPP’s total assets. Her claim is rooted in the fantasy that Alberta workers have overpaid their share to the CPP for years.

However, Premier Smith’s claims have been criticized. Michel Leduc, senior managing director of the non-partisan Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board, labelled the figure “impossible” and criticized Alberta’s calculations.

University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe believes Alberta’s realistic share should be between one-fifth to one-quarter of CPP’s assets, which amounts to around $126 to $157 Billion.

Premier Smith is asking for a couple hundred billion dollars more than she will likely get. That’s not chump change.

An even bigger problem with Premier Smith’s magic math: the amount to be transferred is not up to her or anyone else in Alberta.

The federal government determines the final amount of CPP money transferred to a province. That means Trudeau and his cabinet will set the number. 

Remember them? Aren’t they the same people Premier Smith has been attacking ever since she gained power?

So, it’s doubtful that Ottawa and the other provinces will let Alberta take over half of the CPP! 

Calling All Albertans!

But undeterred by the reality that Alberta is unlikely to win the CPP lottery, the UCP government has planned a series of telephone town halls

Led by former provincial Finance Minister Jim Dinning, these 90-minute sessions will span start on October 16 and end six weeks later on November 22. Each session will focus on feedback from different regions of the province. 

Woman's hand holding smart phone and showing laptop on a desk
Maybe check the winning numbers before calling your friends and family! Firmbe | Unsplash

The NDP has criticized this approach, suggesting that the UCP government should consult Albertans face-to-face.

“The fact that the so-called consultation on the future of the Canada Pension Plan does not include any in-person town halls is a move of pure cowardice. The UCP refuses to look Albertans in the eye,” said Shannon Phillips, Alberta NDP Critic for Finance, Pensions and Insurance. 

The NDP created an online survey, and as of October 16, there were over 26,000 respondents, with 90 percent opposing the UCP plan to create an Alberta Pension. The NDP also announced that they will hold in-person town hall meetings with Albertans concerned about the UCP plan to opt out of the Canada Pension Plan.

The Alberta Government has its own online survey asking Albertans for feedback. The questions on the survey assume that Alberta will get the $334 billion jackpot from the feds. 

Strangely, the survey does not ask if Alberta should leave the CPP; it asks questions about how the fabled jackpot should be spent in the APP.

No province has ever left the CPP since it was created in the mid-1960s. Will Alberta be the first, based on a mythical jackpot yet to be confirmed?

Danielle, maybe check your ticket first before you dial up the good people of Alberta to ask them how to spend money they don’t have–and are unlikely ever to get.

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