AFL will organize made-in-Alberta opposition to provincial pension plan, ads coming soon

“It needs to be Albertans who lead the charge. It needs to be Albertans who debunk the myths and challenge the lies. It needs to be Albertans who push back and defend our own retirement security”

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The leader of one of Alberta’s largest unions says it is prepared to organize a made-in-Alberta opposition to a potential provincial pension plan.

In a statement Thursday, Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) president Gil McGowan said opposition to an Alberta pension plan (APP) needs to come from within the province, and not from Ottawa.

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“We need a ‘remain’ campaign — a campaign to keep Alberta in the Canada Pension Plan (CPP),” he stated.

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“It needs to be Albertans who lead the charge. It needs to be Albertans who debunk the myths and challenge the lies. It needs to be Albertans who push back and defend our own retirement security.”

McGowan stated that he welcomed Wednesday’s open letter to Premier Danielle Smith from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowing to defend Canadians’ pensions “against any actions that would threaten its certainty and stability” but cautioned the move may have unintended consequences.

“She wants a fight with Justin Trudeau,” McGowan stated of Smith. “But just because Danielle Smith wants to frame this as a fight with Ottawa doesn’t mean we have to grant her wish.”

He described the AFL’s involvement as being a “catalyst and convenor” for a campaign he claims will bring together “thousands of Alberta groups and individuals” who oppose the proposed APP.

What that campaign will look like remains unclear but McGowan said to expect to see a campaign website and digital ads in the coming days.

Trudeau’s letter indicated he has instructed his cabinet to “take all necessary steps to ensure Albertans — and Canadians — are fully aware of the risks of your plan, and to do everything possible to ensure the Canada Pension Plan remains intact.”

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Smith responded with her own open letter that took issue with the prime minister’s tone, stating it was “disingenuous and inappropriate” for him to speak out so forcefully on the issue.

She cited the government’s report it commissioned from LifeWorks and released last month in stating that a CPP without Alberta would return to the stability it saw a decade ago.

She also indicated concern that the federal government would block Alberta’s potential efforts to leave the CPP as per existing legislation, pending the results of a referendum.

“Any attempt to do so will be seen as (an) attack on the constitutional and legal rights of Alberta and met with serious legal and political consequences.”

The LifeWorks report pitches an APP as having potentially lower contribution rates but higher benefits than the CPP due to Alberta’s younger, higher-earning workforce as currently constituted.

Those conclusions are predicated on Alberta receiving 53 per cent of the CPP’s base assets, some $334 billion, while being home to roughly 12 per cent of Canada’s population and 16 per cent of CPP participants.

In the event Alberta chooses to leave the CPP, the province would have to negotiate its share of CPP assets and liabilities, a process scholars say would be unprecedented and complex.

The AFL is comprised of 28 affiliated unions representing 170,000 unionized workers across the province.

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