Alberta Finance Minister Nate Horner and Alberta Pension Plan (APP) Engagement chair Jim Dinning provided an update on the ongoing work of the panel on Dec. 8.
The panel exploring the creation of an APP has held five telephone town halls throughout the fall, hearing from “tens of thousands of Albertans.”
Around 15,000 participated in each session, with around 76,000 total between the sessions. While around 140 contributed live during the sessions, over 3,800 left comments after the fact.
“Many Albertans oppose the idea,” said Dinning.
“Many are quite passionate about it … Many Albertans are in support of taking control of the Alberta Pension Plan … Many people still need more information before deciding.”
During his briefing, Dinning said that around 50 per cent of the participants in the telephone town halls opposed the creation of an APP, around 20-25 per cent were in favour, and another 25-30 per cent felt that more information was needed.
Dinning noted that with the end of the five telephone town halls, the first stage of the consultation process is completed; the second stage, involving live, in-person sessions, has not yet been scheduled.
According to Dinning, the reason for the postponement comes down to Alberta’s share of the Canadian Pension Plan — the Lifeworks report, which the proposed pension plan is based on, suggests that Alberta’s share of the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) is $344 billion.
The Lifeworks calculation has been the subject of much scrutiny, Dinning noted in the update.
For that reason, Horner has requested that Canada’s chief actuary weigh in and provide their calculations on Alberta’s share if it were to withdraw from the CPP.
“Albertans want great clarity around that asset transfer,” said Dinning.
“We believe it would be prudent to schedule (the in-person sessions) after we have the asset transfer number,” said Dinning.
“It’s a barrier to moving the conversation forward in a meaningful way.”
Dinning and Horner both noted that the hope is that the federal minister of finance, Chrystia Freeland, will provide the number to the province by mid-February, or the end of the first quarter at the latest.
“Hopefully, the office of the chief actuary work can be completed promptly,” said Horner.
Horner noted that getting the information will only be the first step.
“We’ll have to see if we agree with (the number),” said Horner.
Horner noted that the federal government’s chief actuary was being directed to do the work by Freeland, and there was the question as to how “they’ve been told to interpret their legislation,” however, that won’t be known until the data will be provided.
In the meantime, Dinning says that the panel will continue working on other aspects of the APP, such as how the benefit would be administered, its portability inside and outside of Canada, and how it would be invested and managed.
“My commitment is, when we have more information, we will share it,” said Horner.
Finally, Horner touched on a potential referendum.
When asked why the Government of Alberta would not commit to a binding referendum on an APP, Horner said that “only constitutional referendums are binding,” but he did provide reassurance that the province would follow through on the will of the people.
“Any government that asks a question of this consequence should be prepared to follow through on the wills and the wishes of Albertans,” said Horner.
“But frankly, we’re not even at the place of committing to a referendum … We’re very much focused on getting this number from the chief actuary.”