By Lethbridge Herald on October 28, 2023.
AT THE LEGISLATURE
Shannon Phillips – NDP MLA for Lethbridge West
“You have to be careful what you wish for. It could unravel the whole thing and a lot of Canadians could be exposed quite dramatically in their pensions.”
Those words are not mine. Instead, those words of caution came from Goldy Hyder, CEO of the Business Council of Canada, in reaction to Danielle Smith’s plan to take Albertan’s pensions out of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and put them into her own piggy bank, an Alberta Pension Plan (APP). The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) similarly warned of the risk that would come from small pension plans (like an Alberta-based one) where even small economic downturns would risk “significant deficits requiring higher premiums”.
Anytime the Business Council of Canada, the CFIB, the Alberta NDP, and three quarters of Albertans agree on something you might ask, then who is in favour of pulling us out of CPP?
There is one Albertan who is very enthusiastic, Premier Danielle Smith. She has been an evangelist for the scheme throughout her career and has long claimed all kinds of magical outcomes were possible if only we would give her a fantastical amount of money in the form of our retirement savings. Now, as Premier, she is abandoning all advice against the scheme and is leading this parade to pension peril.
When Danielle Smith was running in the May 2023 election she refused to speak about the plan. Many of her candidates, now MLAs, bluntly dismissed any possibility of an Alberta Pension Plan. Mere weeks later, the scheme emerged again.
This time, Smith trotted out an “independent report” that claimed Alberta would be owed 53 per cent of the CPP assets. More than a few people were stunned to hear her claim we would take $334 billion from CPP, an amount that is, in the words of Trevor Tombe from the University of Calgary, so high it is “transparently unreasonable and not going to fly anywhere else in the country.” Jason Markusoff, a Calgary journalist, said it reminded him of the Austin Powers film character Dr. Evil asking for $100 billion dollars. But Smith was demanding three times more than the comically high amount Dr Evil demanded and it is no laughing matter to other Canadians, who will not be held hostage to Premier Smith’s magical thinking.
Almost immediately after Smith announced she planned to gamble the pension security of Albertans many of us reminded her that those CPP holdings are people’s money earned throughout their careers and secured in the top performing pension fund in the world, the CPP. Canadians outside Alberta, including many provincial premiers, cautioned Smith that her scheme was not going to be taken lightly by Canadians who would stand to lose their savings in order to pay off Smith’s ransom demand. Albertans told Smith and her government that not only were they not interested in handing her the keys to their retirement security, they also saw at least a million better ways to spend the government’s time and money than a huge ad campaign meant to bamboozle Albertans.
My inbox is stuffed with emails opposing an APP, my phone is ringing off the hook with concerned Albertans, and I cannot get more than a few steps before someone stops me to tell me what a bad idea it is and how they cannot imagine what the UCP are thinking.
I know that if I am hearing this much blowback on the idea of an APP then it is no different for UCP MLAs. They are hearing the tens of thousands of Albertans who have categorically rejected Danielle Smith’s premise.
The idea is bad, the report is misleading, the formula they employ in the report is deeply flawed, and the conclusions they reach are transparently unreasonable. And, as if lying to Albertans with this consultation and report was not bad enough, the UCP ad campaign, using our tax dollars, hopes to convince you that water is wine and down is up. Frankly, Albertans will not fall for it.
There are a few things you can do if you would like to make your voice heard on this. First off is to go to Albertasfuture.ca where we are hosting a very simple survey that asks you the one thing Danielle Smith’s was too afraid to ask: Should Alberta leave the Canada Pension Plan? It then provides you space to share your thoughts about why you think that.
Secondly, make sure to email me and UCP MLAs to let them know your opinion. They need to hear it so often that they beg Premier Smith to withdraw the scheme.
What gives me hope is the call I got from a pensioner in Lethbridge who said she had no idea why the UCP were spending all this money on an ad campaign designed to convince Albertans that we would be entitled to half the CPP assets.
She told us she wanted that ad money (already over $7 million) to go to addressing homelessness, sky high electricity rates, and the overcrowded school classrooms and ER waiting rooms. She concluded, “this Premier has not earned my trust after all these shenanigans with coal, labs, and now pensions. I won’t let her gamble away my money.” As always, contact me at email@example.com or 403-329-4644 with your concerns.