The Opposition NDP has launched a survey of its own about the UCP’s idea for the province to pull out of the Canada Pension Plan and create an Alberta Pension Plan instead.
It comes after the Government of Alberta issued an online survey about the idea, following the release of a third-party report into the potential and feasibility of Alberta leaving the CPP.
NDP finance critic Shannon Phillips told reporters that the government’s survey misses one key question.
“This so-called consultation, using government resources, does not even ask if Albertans want to exit the Canada Pension Plan,” Phillips said Monday.
The government’s survey instead asks Albertans for feedback on how an Alberta Pension Plan should be structured; using highlights from the commissioned report that show a provincial pension plan would deliver higher benefits payouts and savings through lower contributions.
Phillips said the province’s survey assumes support to pull out of the CPP and administer its own pension plan.
“Instead, every question is about how Albertans want to design an Alberta Pension Plan,” she said. “In other words, it’s just asking Albertans what colour of unicorn they would like; and the fact there will be unicorns is taken as a given by this government.”
The report, commissioned by the government, says Alberta would be entitled to $334 billion, or more than half, of the CPP fund if it were to pull out of the national plan in 2027.
The report states that, based on that share, Alberta would save $5 billion annually in lower contributions if it went on its own.
However, some economists have questioned the report’s calculations, saying the hypothetical payout is based on one interpretation of the underlying legislation and funding formula.
In a statement to Global News, Alberta finance minister Nate Horner said ensuring Albertans have the opportunity to provide feedback on the potential of an Alberta Pension Plan “is a priority for Alberta’s government.”
Horner’s statement also said an independent panel led by former finance minister Jim Dinning will also provide opportunities for Albertans to “ask their questions, raise their concerns and provide their thoughts on a potential APP.”
“We have been clear all along: Albertans will choose what happens with their pensions,” Horner’s statement said. “Unlike the NDP who have made it clear that they would not respect the wishes of Albertans, we will put the interest of Albertans first and respect whatever choice they make.”
That panel is expected to begin those consultations in the coming weeks through to next spring, with a feedback report to recommend whether the government should hold a referendum on a provincial pension plan.
MRU political scientist Duane Bratt, who has completed the government’s survey, said he believes the consultations are about changing public opinion, not gauging it.
“Jim Dinning has been appointed to a panel, not to gauge opinion, but to shape it and change it,” Bratt said. “It’s clear that the Government of Alberta isn’t putting a thumb on the scale, they’re stomping their foot on the scale.”
According to Phillips, the NDP’s survey asks whether Alberta should ditch the CPP, and reasoning for why or why not.