Freeland to meet finance ministers on Alberta’s proposed CPP withdrawal

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Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland confirmed she will be meeting virtually with her provincial and territorial counterparts on Friday to discuss Alberta’s proposed withdrawal from the Canada Pension Plan, saying she had heard concerns from “many Canadians” over the potential move.

In a letter to the ministers, she said the province had the right to withdraw from the CPP, but that it should be “informed by a clear understanding of the risks” of doing so.

“Protecting the pensions of all Canadians is a priority for our government, and I look forward to an important conversation about this,” she told reporters during a press conference Tuesday.

Premier Danielle Smith proposed the idea earlier this year after a report commissioned by her government said they would be entitled to $334 billion from the existing CPP fund if they withdraw — more than half the current assets — though that number has been criticized.

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The report cited the province’s relatively younger working population, higher incomes, fewer seniors drawing from the CPP and years of high contributions from people in the province.

But Freeland has said she didn’t believe the figure was right and more analysis needs to be done, with the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board estimating Alberta is owed about 16 per cent of the fund.

Click to play video: 'Alberta ready to host finance minister meeting on CPP'

Alberta ready to host finance minister meeting on CPP

There is an exit clause in the CPP’s legislation, allowing provinces to pull out of the national program if they have their own old age security program. Only Quebec is not part of the CPP, but it also had never taken part in the program which was created in 1966.

Political scientist Duane Bratt has compared the proposal for a potential withdrawal to a divorce, given Alberta’s participation in the plan for nearly 60 years.

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Click to play video: 'Pierre Poilievre urges Alberta to stay in the Canada Pension Plan'

Pierre Poilievre urges Alberta to stay in the Canada Pension Plan

Last week, Smith said she would not call a referendum on whether the province should quit the CPP until there is a firm, finalized number on how much the province would get if it decided to leave the plan.

The province’s proposed plan has seen pushback from many, not only from the Alberta opposition NDP but from various provincial governments including the Ontario Progressive Conservatives and the federal Conservatives.

Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy called for the upcoming Friday meeting with his counterparts, and federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre urged Albertans to remain in the CPP.

Click to play video: 'Federal, provincial, territorial finance minister meeting to come amid Alberta’s potential CPP exit: Freeland'

Federal, provincial, territorial finance minister meeting to come amid Alberta’s potential CPP exit: Freeland

Some provincial organizations, like the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL), also panned the proposal with the AFL calling it a “zombie policy that refuses to die,” and that it was “truly scary for anyone contemplating a safe and stable retirement.”

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In her letter to finance ministers, Freeland said Canadians see the potential withdrawal as a “threat to the pensions of people” in both Alberta and across the country.

She went on to say at Friday’s meeting that she would specifically speak about what she called flaws in Alberta’s exit formula, adding some estimates show if that were to be applied to Alberta, Ontario and B.C., the three provinces alone would be entitled to 128 per cent of CPP assets.

“Clearly, such an outcome would be untenable and absurd,” she wrote.

with files from Global News’ David Baxter and The Canadian Press

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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