Horner to meet with Freeland, other finance ministers this week to discuss Alberta pension plan

The meeting will be held Friday and comes nine days after it was requested by Ontario’s finance minister, who issued an open letter expressing concern over a potential Alberta pension plan

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Alberta Finance Minister Nate Horner will meet later this week with his federal and provincial counterparts to discuss the province’s push towards a provincial pension plan.

Deputy Prime Minister and federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said Tuesday that the meeting will be held virtually on Friday.

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“I have heard the concerns of many Canadians, including many Albertans, about the government of Alberta’s proposal to withdraw Albertans from the CPP,” she told reporters in Ottawa early Tuesday.

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“Protecting the pensions of all Canadians is a priority for our government. And I look forward to an important conversation about this with my counterparts from across the country on Friday.”

The meeting will come nine days after Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy issued an open letter to Freeland calling on the federal government to convene what he described as a “critical” meeting of finance ministers to discuss Alberta’s proposed withdrawal from the CPP.

Horner responded later that day, offering to host the gathering. On Tuesday, he told reporters inside the legislature that he was looking forward to Friday’s meeting.

“It sounds like the feds are finally going to tell us something substantial,” he said. “The minister from Ontario asked for it to be very quick and I’m glad it is.”

Bethlenfalvy later said he wanted a “rigorous analysis” of Alberta’s pension plan report, and its conclusion that the province would be entitled to 53 per cent of CPP’s assets should it choose to withdraw, something he stated could “cause serious harm” to retirees across the country.

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The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) has estimated Alberta would be owed about 16 per cent of the fund.

Horner reiterated his earlier call for the CPPIB to show how it arrived at those numbers and for the federal government to provide its own analysis.

“It’s time they show us something substantive and then show their work,” he said.

“If they take issue with the analysis …  we would like to understand what the issue is and go through their analysis with us.”

Horner added he expected the federal carbon tax to also be discussed during Friday’s meeting following the federal Liberals’ recent exemption of home heating oil, a product largely used in Atlantic Canada.

Fall session underway

Alberta began a new legislative session on Monday with the speech from the throne though it made no mention of the Alberta pension plan, something Horner claimed was because the government is still consulting on the issue.

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He added that Bill 2 — the Alberta Pension Protection Act — remains on course to be introduced this week.

The pension issue was the subject of the first question period of the session with Opposition Leader Rachel Notley characterizing the push for a provincial pension plan as an “egregious risk” built on “nonsensical calculations.”

“The math doesn’t add up and the risks are just too high for Albertans who are seeking retirement security.”

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith responded, defending the report and stating the government’s online and telephone town hall consultations are ongoing.

“We stand by our numbers,” she said. “We’re getting some great feedback and when we feel we have enough information and Albertans want to have a vote on it, it will be up to them to decide.”

Smith has previously said that a referendum won’t be held until there is an agreed determination of exactly what proportion of the CPP’s assets Alberta would be entitled to.

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