NDP says UCP cabinet minister’s letter suggests he doesn’t believe Albertans support pension idea

The Alberta NDP released a letter to the public on Friday that it says demonstrates at least one senior UCP lawmaker believes his government’s interest in exploring the idea of a provincial pension plan would not currently be supported by citizens.

In a news release, the Opposition NDP made Affordability and Utilities Minister Nathan Neudorf’s letter to a constituent public.

“I believe that Albertans are proud Canadians, incredibly generous and caring,” reads one part of the letter. “And, at this time, would likely choose not to proceed to a referendum (about creating a provincial pension plan).

“My job is to represent, and advocate for the best interest of the Lethbridge East community. Whatever your position, it is your pensions, so it is your choices.”

The letter was released on the same day finance ministers from across Canada met to discuss the Alberta government’s ongoing interest in exploring the possibility of pursuing such a plan.

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“If (Premier) Danielle Smith and (Finance Minister) Nate Horner can’t even convince their own cabinet colleagues that this is a good idea, then why on Earth are they spending millions of Albertans’ hard-earned dollars promoting it on TV and the radio and billboards and online and so on?” Shannon Phillips, the Opposition finance critic, said in a news release.

“Why are the UCP throwing away a chance to gather Canada’s finance ministers together on a half-baked scheme they don’t even believe in themselves?”

When asked for comment on the letter, Neudorf’s office issued a statement to Global News that said what the government has “heard so far, is that Albertans need a firm number on the asset transfer before they would be prepared to vote on this in a referendum.”

“The federal government has agreed to providing their own actuarial analysis — once we receive this analysis we will determine our next steps. Once again, Albertans will make the final decision on whether to establish an Alberta pension plan.”

In his letter to the constituent, dated Oct. 17, Neuforf noted that “the Alberta government is by no means trying to exit the CPP.”

“The Alberta Pension Plan, depending on whether Albertans want it implemented, would not be detrimental to those who are retired or retiring,” the letter reads in part. “The purpose of doing research on the APP is to inform us on ways to further benefit Alberta residence. (SIC)

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“We are looking for ways to make the quality of life for Albertans that much better, whether they are retiring or retired. Not only do we want to help you, but we also want to benefit working Albertans.”

Following her meeting with provincial finance ministers on Friday, federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said if Alberta were to quit the Canada Pension Plan, it would require a “complex and multi-year process” of negotiating international social security agreements to deal with contributors who work abroad.

“Of course Alberta has the right to withdraw,” Freeland said. “But Alberta’s choice about the (Canada Pension Plan) also implicates every single Canadian.”

She told reporters she will ask the chief actuary to “provide an estimate of the asset transfer,” based on a “reasonable interpretation of the provisions in the (Canada Pension Plan) legislation.”

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Alberta’s UCP government has argued workers in the province have contributed an oversized share to the national fund and could see savings and payouts if they decided to leave the CPP.

Smith had planned on possibly holding a referendum on leaving the CPP in 2025, but has since said she will not go ahead with such a vote until governments or the courts deliver a hard number on how much Alberta would get if it leaves.

“Following the release of an independent report on the potential creation of an Alberta pension Plan, Alberta’s government is engaging with Albertans to gather feedback on their thoughts, suggestions and concerns about a provincial pension plan,” reads part of the statement Neudorf’s office sent to Global News.

“Alberta’s government has been clear that we will not move forward with an Alberta pension plan unless Albertans approve it in a referendum. The minister fully supports this process.”

–With files from The Canadian Press’ Stephanie Taylor and Nojoud Al Mallees

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

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