Alberta’s opposition is launching its own survey on whether the province should leave the Canada Pension Plan, saying the government questionnaire is a “sham” and a “unicorn.”
New Democratic Party finance critic Shannon Phillips says her party’s survey is to lay out a simple choice for Albertans, asking them whether they think leaving the CPP is a good idea. She notes the United Conservative Party government survey, launched last week, doesn’t ask that basic question.
Instead, the survey assumes an Alberta Pension Plan is a good idea and asks Albertans how they’d like to see it administered, which Phillips likens to asking respondents what colour they’d like for their unicorn.
A report commissioned for the Alberta government says a stand-alone pension plan can deliver higher benefits and lower contributions based on a calculation that suggests the province deserves half the $575 billion in the CPP. Analysts, including the CPP Investment Board, put Alberta’s share much lower, at 12 to 20 per cent.
The government survey is one component of a consultation strategy announced last week by Premier Danielle Smith. A panel led by former finance minister Jim Dinning will also hold telephone town halls and other consultations in the months to come. Next year, it will recommend to Smith whether a referendum should be held on Alberta leaving the CPP.
Smith says the potential benefits to Alberta of quitting the CPP are so profound, citizens deserve to have a say. On the other hand, Phillips says Albertans have been clear in the past — and have been vocal with her caucus in recent days — that they don’t want the CPP touched.
“We’re going to look at everything from town hall meetings, ensuring that we are tabling petitions, ensuring that we are tabling letters, ensuring that we put the heat on those UCP MLAs who are supporting this Alberta Pension Plan,” said Phillips this week. “We will ask the questions Albertans need to consider when determining the future of their retirement.”
The survey’s failure to ask Albertans the basic question of whether they want to leave the CPP shows Smith’s government knows it’s offside with public sentiment, she added. “Can you imagine how frightened the UCP must be of the answer they will get to that question if they refuse to even ask it in the first place? Every question is about (how) Albertans want to design an Alberta Pension Plan. In other words, it’s just asking Albertans what colour of unicorn they would like and the fact that there is going to be unicorns is taken as a given by this government.”
Alberta Finance Minister Nate Horner responded in a statement. “The NDP provides zero context for Albertans to be able to make informed decisions about switching to an [Alberta Pension Plan] in their survey, which is extremely disappointing. Albertans deserve the facts.”