In the wake of an “urgent” meeting with provincial finance ministers Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, reaffirmed Alberta’s right to withdraw from the Canada Pension Plan but questioned the number Alberta says it’s entitled to from the pension fund if it does.
“Of course, Alberta has the right to withdraw from the CPP (Canada Pension Plan) should it so choose,” Freeland admitted after the meeting with her provincial and territorial counterparts.
However, she added that Alberta’s choice about the CPP implicates every single Canadian. Due to this, the meeting focused on what the consequences for the entire country would be if Alberta decided to leave, she explained.
Alberta has referenced a study indicating its claim to a significant portion of the CPP’s holdings.
The study projects that by Jan. 1, 2027, Alberta could lay claim to an estimated $334 billion, representing about 53% of the CPP’s assets. This projected share far exceeds Alberta’s relative population size within the CPP framework, around 15%.
Freeland rejected that figure when asked if she thought it was realistic.
“No, I do not,” she said.
During the meeting, Freeland confirmed that she “told ministers today that she would ask the chief actuary to provide an estimate of the transfer based on a reasonable interpretation of the provisions in the CPP legislation.”
Freeland added the many legal complexities of Alberta’s exit from the CPP. Since the CPP was founded nearly 60 years ago, no province has ever left, although Quebec opted not to join in the first place.
“This action is unprecedented. This is just the beginning of a national conversation, and I expect to meet with my ministerial counterparts in person in the coming weeks,” she said.
Freeland brought up the issue of portability. She explained that Alberta would need to negotiate portability agreements with the CPP and the Quebec Pension Plan.
Alberta would also need to negotiate international social security agreements to ensure similar treatment of contributors who spend part of their careers abroad.
Quebec has negotiated its own social security agreements with 39 countries, and Canada has negotiated with 60.
“This would be a complex and multi-year process,” explained Freeland.
Freeland made sure not to speak for the Alberta government but did note that she spoke with the head of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce and the head of the Alberta Federation of Labour, who each brought up their “very serious concerns” with Alberta’s proposal.
Alberta has not committed to withdrawing from CPP, but it has said Albertans will be able to vote on whether they wish to do so in a referendum, which has not yet been called.
While Freeland’s comments were about the pension issue, she also faced questions from reporters about the mounting calls for federal carbon tax relief.
Asked whether there would be further exemptions to the carbon tax on home heating beyond eating oil, Freeland said “No.”
When asked about legal actions the federal government would take against provinces that stop collecting the carbon tax, Freeland said that the federal government expects everyone in Canada to obey the law.
“That’s our expectation, and it’s our job to ensure that the law is enforced. It will be,” she said.
As the debate over Alberta’s proposed withdrawal from the CPP continues, so too do the debates surrounding the carbon tax.
Freeland explained that there is a federal, provincial, and territorial finance ministers meeting coming up in December, where they will discuss the carbon tax and other key issues affecting the country.