July 14th, 2024

Opposition NDP calls on UCP government to listen to Albertans on pension plan

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on January 24, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

Alberta NDP Finance Critic for Insurance and Pensions and Lethbridge West MLA Shannon Phillips called on Danielle Smith’s UCP government to listen to Albertans’ response in recent polling data on the provincial pension plan during a press conference Tuesday.

Phillips began by stating that during a year-end interview Smith said she will continue to advertise to Albertans about the Alberta Pension Plan, continue to spend millions of Albertan’s tax dollars on a scheme they do not want and crucially continue to lie to Albertans.

“Any individual Albertan nor employer does not pay more than any other Canadian into the Canada Pension Plan. Sure we have more actual individuals paying in now because we have a younger population and often people retire elsewhere, the figures she put out in that interview were false, but she continued to use our money to sell us falsehoods,” said Phillips.

 She said Smith made it clear she wants to exert her political influence on how Albertans’ pensions are invested.

 “We know that Danielle Smith is unpredictable, and now we also know she wants to direct how our pensions are managed and take that away from the arm’s length investment of the CPP which has the best pension management track record in the world,” added Phillips.

 She said they learned recently about what the Conservative government of Doug Ford in Ontario really thinks behind closed doors about the UCP plan to gamble with Albertans retirement.

 “We know that publicly they have been quite critical, in private it’s worse. In a government briefing note that was obtained under Freedom of Information, Doug Ford’s government called Smith’s plan inflated and half the story,” said Phillips.

 She said their analysis showed what Albertans already know – the CPP is an agreement between all Canadians not between Alberta and the federal government and it showed the risks of Alberta going it alone.

 “It highlighted what we know Albertans count on as the most important aspect of the CPP, it’s portability between provinces,” said Phillips.

 She said the NDP recently learned, within the last few days, that public support for Smith’s plan to gamble with Albertans retirement remains pathetically low.

 “Barely one in five Albertans agrees with her plan. We’ve had now four months of wasting money and effort and causing anxiety among the retirees, those planning for their retirement and employers, and the government is no further ahead in fact support for her plan to gamble with their retirement is falling among UCP supporters,” said Phillips.

 She said not only is this gambit a waste of money, but it is also verging into political malpractice at this point.

 “A couple of days ago we learned from internal government documents that any Alberta Pension Plan would mean setting up a new provincial infrastructure. We learned from a federal briefing note that other provinces are not interested in allowing Alberta to use the Canada Pension Plan investment arm if we go it alone,” said Phillips.

 She explained that means Albertans will need a new tax collection agency and they will be required to file their personal income taxes twice.

 “Finance minister Travis Toews last year in budget estimates confirmed to me under questioning that an Alberta tax revenue agency would cost a minimum of $500 million a year, it would involve hiring between 2,000 and 3,000 more public servants as tax collectors. No wonder Travis Toews didn’t run again in May, he knew what this fool’s errand would cost,” said Phillips.

 She said all these developments mean Albertans need to keep speaking up, speaking out and showing up. Thousands of Albertans have already done so, but apparently, we need more because the government is not listening yet.

 She said over the next month the NDP will be hosting a series of in-person town halls across the province while the UCP cancelled their town halls on the topic of Albertan’s retirement security.

 “They don’t want to hear from Albertans, but we do, and we will keep going and we will keep working for Albertans retirement security. Folks can visit albertasfuture.ca to register for any of our upcoming town halls and make sure that we send the message hands off our CPP,” said Phillips.

In response to a Herald question, Savannah Johannsen, press secretary for the office of Treasury Board and Finance shared the benefits of the pension plan.

“A report created by the independent consultant LifeWorks, suggests an Alberta Pension Plan could mean cost savings each year for Albertans and employers, while providing the same, if not better benefits as the Canada Pension Plan and the same if not lower contribution rates.

“Alberta’s government is currently waiting to receive additional analysis by the Office of the Chief Actuary of Canada, outlining its opinion of the value of the asset transfer Alberta would be entitled to receive if it were to withdraw from the Canada Pension Plan. We remain committed to providing Albertans all the information they need to make an informed decision on an Alberta Pension Plan. This is their pension and their choice,” said Johannsen.

– with files from Steffanie Costigan

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