Albertans from across the province had their voices heard and concerns acknowledged regarding Alberta’s possible plan to pull out of the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) and set up the Alberta Pension Plan (APP).
The town halls are separated by regions in Alberta. The first three sessions have been Northern Alberta, Southern Alberta, and Calgary. Edmonton and Central Alberta will be held within the next two weeks, on November 16 and 22, respectively.
Hundreds of thousands of Albertans had signed up to participate in the first session for Northern Alberta on October 16. The moderator confirmed that there were over 10,000 Albertans on the call at once.
The panel is chaired by Jim Dinning, who served as Provincial Treasurer from 1992-1997. He’s a member of the Order of Canada, Chancellor Emeritus of the University of Calgary, and Fellow of the Institute of Corporate Directors.
“We’re not here as advocates. We’re here as listeners. In the end, you are the jury. Our job is to tell the government, here is what Albertans told us. These are their thoughts and concerns. And, it will be up to the government to decide how to proceed,” Dinning told town hall attendees.
Also on the panel is Mary Ritchie, a chartered accountant and corporate director who previously served as Audit Committee Chair for the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.
Ritchie said she was there to answer questions such as, how Albertans would want the APP managed, what oversight should look like and what type of mandate would be preferred.
The third and last member of the panel is Moin Yahya, a Professor at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law, where he was Vice Dean from 2014-2019. Mr. Yahya was also one of the members of the Fair Deal Panel.
“A separate pension plan for Alberta was something that we heard some strong voices in favor for, but we did not have all the information to give the government a clear answer on what to do next,” said Yahya.
The panel recommended that the government look into whether or not Alberta should set up its own pension plan in more depth and detail, and then ultimately put the question to the people of Alberta via a referendum.
Based on the feedback of the town halls, Albertans seem divided on the matter.
Some attendees supported the proposed APP wholeheartedly, while others were completely against it. Some attendees also claimed to be somewhere in the middle, unsure of where they stand, hoping to learn more and eventually take a stance.
Attendees were able to ask questions, which the panel members answered directly.
Many of the questions asked were comparing the costs, benefits, contributions, and returns of the APP to the CPP.
Another recurring concern was the portability of the APP. Panel members repeatedly referred to Quebec’s pension plan as precedent, and said that portability agreements would be negotiated and established with the CPP.
Panel members noted down some comments and concerns to present to the government in their final report.
Albertans are also able to provide their thoughts and vision for the APP via a survey.
The telephone town halls will conclude with the last session on November 22.
Following that, in-person town halls will be held in December. These town halls will draw on information gathered in the phone conferences to better lead the conversation.
The Panel will share their report following the town halls with the government of Alberta in May 2024.
Following the report, the government will decide whether or not to hold a referendum. The referendum to change from the CPP to an APP will occur in 2025.
Bill 2, the Alberta Pension Protection Act, was tabled on November 2.
The Bill provides four guarantees – the Act states that Albertans must vote in favour of transferring to the APP to withdraw from the CPP. Further, contribution rates under an APP would be the same or lower than the CPP, an APP must provide better benefits to Albertans than the CPP and the entire asset transferred from the CPP would be used solely to set up and operate an APP.
Alberta Finance Minister Nate Horner welcomes an analysis of the future.
“Alberta welcomes all good-faith, rigorous analysis of the report produced by LifeWorks,” he said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has opposed Alberta’s proposed withdrawal.
“The harm it would cause is undeniable,” he said.
Smith has made it clear that Albertans will decide what happens, not the federal government.
“Trudeau is clearly against Albertans having a referendum to decide their future,” said Smith.
“These pensions belong to Albertans. They will decide.”