Half of Albertans oppose leaving CPP to create provincial pension plan: Angus Reid poll

The poll, released Monday, showed 48 per cent of Albertans who were surveyed opposed the idea of a provincial plan

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Just under half of Albertans oppose the idea of the province withdrawing from the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) to establish its own provincial plan, with many citing cost or fears of a worse retirement, shows a new poll from the Angus Reid Institute.

The poll, released Monday, showed 48 per cent of Albertans who were surveyed opposed the idea of a provincial plan, a similar proportion to the 50 per cent stated by Jim Dinning, chair of the province’s pension engagement panel, based on feedback he had heard at the five telephone town halls held on the issue so far.

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The Angus Reid survey found 36 per cent of those polled were in favour of an Alberta pension plan (APP) with 17 per cent undecided.

Those figures compare to Dinning’s estimates of between 20 and 25 per cent in favour of APP, and between 25 and 30 per cent undecided.

A majority, 51 per cent, of those Albertans surveyed for the Angus Reid poll expected their retirement to be worse or much worse if Alberta left the CPP, with 31 per cent expecting it to be better or much better.

Similarly, 48 per cent of respondents in Alberta stated leaving the CPP would drive up household costs.

Last week, the Alberta government paused its consultation on the pension issue, citing skepticism at the $334 billion, or 53 per cent of CPP’s assets, listed as the province’s potential asset withdrawal from the federal plan in the report it released in September.

Dinning, told reporters at the legislature Friday that the figure had become “a barrier” to moving the discussion forward and that future public engagements were postponed until it was clarified.

Deputy Prime Minister and federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland has asked the Office of the Chief Actuary of Canada to perform its own calculations on Alberta’s potential asset withdrawal, though the timeline for when that may be received or published is not yet known.

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That may be clarified later this week following a meeting between Freeland and provincial finance ministers, including Alberta Finance Minister Nate Horner, that is set for Toronto early Friday.

The pension question has so far drawn largely negative reaction from Albertans as seen in the responses at Dinning’s town halls as well as in prior opinion polling, the Opposition NDP’s town hallsemails to the premier’s office, and internal government reports indicating government flyers were being mailed back.

National support for CPP

Canadians as a whole, oppose Alberta leaving the CPP by nearly a two-to-one ratio, the Angus Reid survey found.

Among all the nearly 4,000 Canadians surveyed, 47 per cent opposed Alberta withdrawing from the CPP, with 25 per cent in favour, and 28 per cent unsure or unable to say.

Outside of Alberta, support for an APP was highest in Quebec at 32 per cent. The province has had its own provincial pension plan since choosing to not join the CPP when it was created in 1965. Its residents receive equivalent benefits to the CPP but pay a higher contribution rate of 12.8 per cent compared with 11.9 per cent for the CPP.

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Respondents from Saskatchewan — which has its own voluntary pension plan that supplements the CPP — were close behind with 31 per cent supporting an APP. They also expressed the greatest desire of any province to itself withdraw from the CPP, but remained a minority at 37 per cent.

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The strongest opposition to an APP came from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, where 68 and 64 per cent of respective respondents were against Alberta leaving the CPP, as were a majority of those surveyed in B.C., Ontario, and Manitoba.

Alberta withdrawing from the CPP would likely mean increased premiums in the remaining provinces, experts have said.

The pollster surveyed a representative randomized sample of 3,749 Canadian adults online from nine provinces (all but P.E.I.) who are members of the Angus Reid Forum.

The institute states a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, but notes those figures are for comparison purposes only.

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