Citing the “complicated” nature of pensions and need for all provinces and territories to weigh in, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland wouldn’t provide a specific timeline for determining how much Alberta would be entitled to if it leaves the Canada Pension Plan.

Speaking after a meeting with her provincial and territorial counterparts, Freeland said officials reported back to the group last Friday about the work involved with arriving at the number, which she requested from the chief actuary in November. Those officials suggested they needed to meet again in January to discuss progress, “and we all agreed that was a good idea,” she said.

The ministers held a special meeting last month to discuss Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s push to quit the CPP for an Alberta-only version. Smith began her push to exit CPP in September, when she released a Lifeworks report estimating Alberta is entitled to $334 billion, or 53 per cent, of the CPP if it starts its own pension program.

Read: Alberta would need to negotiate international agreements if it quits CPP: Freeland | Benefits

Other economists, including those with the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, believe Alberta’s share is closer to its percentage of the CPP membership, at about 15 per cent. To settle the debate, Freeland is seeking a number from the chief actuary, but when pressed about whether it could take months or even until summer to arrive at that figure, she offered no timeline.

“I learned during the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations never to answer hypothetical questions. It’s not a good idea for an elected political leader. What I think was very clear in the conversation today, when we heard back from officials was how technical this work is. . . . We agreed that we’re going to do the work and define the tasking very carefully, very deliberately and, crucially, really transparently.”

Freeland said some ministers were “emotional” talking about the pension issue because many people are anxious about it and the certainty of receiving a pension is a “huge comfort” to Canadians.

When asked about the pension portions of the meeting, Alberta Finance Minister Nate Horner said, “I am pleased Minister Freeland agreed that the chief actuary should rely on their own legal analysis and not what the federal government says.”

Read: Finance ministers to meet on Alberta’s proposal to leave Canada Pension Plan

Freeland said in her remarks that any province or territory can leave the federal pension plan. “There’s no debate about that. The federal government’s contention, though, is first and foremost that we have a great system. We have a system that works, which actually is the envy of the world.”

After the day’s meeting wrapped up, Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy said conversations around the pension issue had been “very collaborative.”

“Alberta being in the pension plan . . . is good for Alberta, it’s good for Canada [and] it’s good for Ontario. So we’re going to continue pushing that we have a process that’s clear, that’s timely, that’s deliberate and thoughtful.”

But before the meeting began, Saskatchewan Finance Minister Donna Harpauer downplayed the need to take care of the pension issue immediately. “That’s a very long process and it’s not what is pressing and urgent today.”

Read: Alberta deserves more than half CPP assets if it exits program: report