Chief Actuary to calculate ‘reasonable’ Alberta CPP exit cost: Freeland

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says she has asked the Office of the Chief Actuary to calculate a “reasonable” amount Alberta could be entitled to if they pull out of the Canada Pension Plan.

This comes after her meeting with the provincial and territorial finance ministers to discuss Alberta’s proposal to quit the CPP.

The Office of the Chief Actuary provides checks and balances, plus oversees future costs of program like the CPP, Old Age Security Program and Canada Student Assistance Fiscal Program.

Freeland and all ministers recognized the right of Alberta, or any other province, to pull out of the CPP but the deputy prime minister stressed the potential consequences.

“This would be a complex and multiyear process and it would be taking place at a time of real uncertainty geopolitical uncertainty, global economic uncertainty around the world,” Freeland said following the meeting.

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“I truly believe as deputy prime minister and as finance minister of Canada, adding to that uncertainty right now is not something that would help Albertans or any Canadians.”

Click to play video: 'Chief Actuary to calculate ‘reasonable’ Alberta CPP exit cost: Freeland'

Chief Actuary to calculate ‘reasonable’ Alberta CPP exit cost: Freeland

In a statement, Alberta Finance Minister Nate Horner said it’s encouraging to see the federal government commit to an actuarial analysis of what Alberta would be entitled to if it did exit the CPP.

“We’ve been asking for this for several weeks. It is critical for the ongoing discussion of an Alberta Pension Plan that we have a firm asset transfer number (and the potential benefit increases to Albertans stemming from that transfer amount) upon which Albertans can make an informed decision,” Horner said.

Horner stressed that the Alberta government sees this as just a discussion right now, and would only move forward if Albertans vote to do so in a still hypothetical referendum.

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Click to play video: 'Some Alberta retirees fear ‘ridiculous’ new pension plan, as province previews CPP exit strategy'

Some Alberta retirees fear ‘ridiculous’ new pension plan, as province previews CPP exit strategy

The Alberta government says its workers have contributed an oversized share to the national fund and would be in line for big savings and payouts if it were to leave the CPP.

The initial, and highly criticized estimate, from Alberta on what it would be owed from the existing CPP fund if it pulled out was $334 billion, approximately 53 per cent of the current funds. This figure has since been walked back.

Freeland said she does not believe this is a realistic figure.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith had planned to hold a possible referendum on leaving the CPP in 2025, but now says she won’t hold it until governments or the courts deliver a hard number on how much Alberta will get if it leaves the CPP.

Before the meeting, Horner said he looked forward to discussing the pension issue, along with other points of inter-governmental dispute, including the federal carbon tax.

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Speaking to reporters in Fredericton on Friday, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said that he doesn’t want to see Alberta leave the CPP but understands why they are exploring this option.

“How do you expect them to act? If you keep putting policies in place that cause a province we’re all benefiting from that erode their economy, what would you expect them to do?” Higgs said.

“I think there’s a way through this. Some of the policies should change, starting with the carbon tax.”

Despite the push from some provinces to discuss further exemptions in the carbon price, following the controversial pause on it for home heating oil, Freeland said this hour-long meeting was called to focus solely on the CPP.

She added that there will be another finance ministers meeting next month to discuss other issues of concern and she looks forward to working with her counterparts on an agenda.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that there will be “absolutely no more” carve-outs in the carbon price, a point reiterated by Freeland.

When asked what Ottawa’s next steps may be after the chief actuary comes up with a potential exit figure, Freeland said she does not answer hypothetical questions.

“This has never happened before. That’s why it’s going to be really, really important to have a calm, fact-based conversation. It’s really important to recognize that this issue is about Alberta’s decision and Alberta has the right to make its choice, but that it is an issue that involves and touches on every single Canadian,” Freeland said.

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With files from The Canadian Press.

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