Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre encouraged Albertans to stay in the Canadian Pension Plan (CCP) in response to Premier Danielle Smith’s proposed plan to withdraw from the CCP and set up a provincial fund. 

Poilievre addressed the issue in a statement released to the National Post, writing that while he understood that Albertans were attempting to “get some of their money back,” the opposition leader still advised against the proposal, writing, “I encourage Albertans to stay in the CPP.”

“The division today on the CPP is entirely the result of Justin Trudeau attacking the Alberta economy. His unconstitutional anti-development laws and painful carbon taxes have forced Albertans to look for ways to get some of their money back,” wrote Poilievre.

“We would not be having this CPP 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 statement comes after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote a strongly worded open letter to Smith saying that Ottawa would defend the CPP against her government’s plan to withdraw on Wednesday.

Smith addressed Poilievre’s statement in an email to the National Post, writing, “I appreciate the sentiment” from Poilievre “regarding the multiple destructive policies the Liberal-NDP coalition have imposed on the Albertan and Canadian economies.”

“As it relates to the Alberta Pension Plan; this is an opportunity Albertans are discussing that has potential to improve the lives of our seniors and workers without risk to the pensions of fellow Canadians,” wrote Smith. “After this broad consultation and discussion are complete, Albertans will ultimately decide whether or not to pursue this opportunity further.”

Human resources company LifeWorks released an independent report that found Alberta could be entitled to $334 billion dollars should it withdraw from the CCP, which accounts for over half of the total assets of the national pension fund. 

Lifeworks claimed the amount to be, “equal to Albertans’ contributions less benefit payments and expenses accumulated with net investment earnings.”

The proposal has been met with stark criticism from both the Alberta NDP and the Alberta Labour Federation, a conglomerate of unions, who vowed to fight back against it on Thursday. 

The board that manages the CPP, called CPP Investments, criticized the lack of consultation by Smith’s government with Albertans themselves. 

Those who advocate for the creation of an Alberta pension plan say that due to the province’s largely young population, many would benefit from not having to pay as much in CPP contributions from their income, while seniors in the province could receive retirement benefits from the proposed independent pension fund. 

Trudeau vowed to protect the CPP “against any actions that would threaten its certainty and stability,” in his open letter to Smith. 

“Alberta’s withdrawal would weaken the pensions of millions of seniors and hardworking people in Alberta and right across the country. The harm it would cause is undeniable,” wrote Trudeau. “We will not stand by as anyone seeks to weaken pensions and reduce the retirement income of Canadians.”

Smith responded with her own open letter, writing, “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.”

“If Albertans choose to withdraw from CPP, I expect that you will respect their choice,” added Smith.