UCP set to introduce Alberta Pension Protection Act next week as MLAs return

‘This legislation … will ultimately enshrine into law that should we proceed with an Alberta pension it will be done through referendum with specific criteria’

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Alberta’s United Conservative Party government is set to introduce legislation next week setting the legal framework for a potential provincial pension plan.

Government house leader Joseph Schow said the Alberta Pension Protection Act will be among the early bills brought forward in the upcoming fall legislative session set to begin Oct. 30, the first full sitting since the May 29 election.

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“This legislation … will ultimately enshrine into law that should we proceed with an Alberta pension, it will be done through referendum with specific criteria.”

Schow said it would be improper to share further details until the bill is tabled, including if it specifies the wording of a potential referendum question or what the required margin of victory would be.

“You’re going to have to wait and see for it to come out.”

Premier Danielle Smith said earlier this month that the bill will have four components:

  • a guarantee that transferred pension assets would stay in the plan
  • benefits would be better or equal to those of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP)
  • contributions would the same or less compared to the CPP
  • an APP must be approved by a provincewide vote

“There isn’t any additional elements in there talking about how the funds would be invested,” she said.

Smith said Wednesday that there would be no referendum without a “hard number” of what assets Alberta could extract from the CPP, something that may be years in coming, possibly as a result of a court battle.

Despite that, Schow said introducing the bill clarifies the government’s plans and fulfilled a campaign promise from last spring’s election.

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“Putting in legislation just strengthens our case that we do want to hear from Albertans.”

The session is set to run from Monday until Dec. 7, with a weeklong break in mid-November.

New Democrat Opposition leader Rachel Notley said her caucus of 38 MLAs were preparing to fight the bill.

“We are going to do everything at our disposal to stop every single solitary step towards Danielle Smith getting her hands onto the pensions and the retirement security of the millions of Albertans,” Notley said in response to a question asking if her party planned to filibuster the UCP’s pension bill.

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She also questioned the integrity of a potential pension vote given the growing skepticism around the government’s consultation process, and report claiming Alberta would be entitled to 53 per cent of CPP assets should it elect to withdraw.

“I can’t even begin to imagine the question that they would construct in a referendum,” she said. “But I highly doubt that anybody believes that they can trust them to administer such a process fairly.”

“Any steps to jeopardize the retirement security of Albertans will be resisted with all of our efforts.”

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board has estimated Alberta is owed about 16 per cent of the fund, though the Alberta government has asked to examine the calculations behind that figure.

No province has left the CPP since its inception in 1967, and scholars say the process of doing so would be unprecedented and complex.

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