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Most Albertans don't want the province to pull out of CPP, survey finds

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One month after finance ministers met to discuss the Alberta government's intent to pull out of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), public opinion polling by the Angus Reid Institute (Angus Reid) suggests there's little desire among Albertans or the rest of Canada to see Alberta leave the plan.

According to a new report by Angus Reid, not only do Canadians oppose Alberta leaving CPP at a ratio of two to one, but Albertans are more likely to believe leaving CPP will cost them money and half believe it will be worse for their retirement under an Alberta Pension Plan.

While any province is eligible to leave the national pension plan with three years notice and start their own, Angus Reid reports few want to do so. Every province but Quebec has been part of the plan since pensions were mandated in 1966.

COMPETING VIEWS

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith's United Conservative Party (UCP) government sparked the CPP exit conversation on Sept. 21 when it released a report by analyst LifeWorks that calculates Alberta is entitled to 53 per cent of the Canada Pension Plan—about $334 billion—if it leaves to set up its own program.

"Alberta's young working population and more jobs with higher wages has resulted in Albertans over-contributing tens of billions into the CPP compared to the benefits we've received," states a Government of Alberta video promoting the creation of an Alberta pension plan.

However, other economists, including those with the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, estimate Alberta's share is much lower – around 15 per cent. That figure would be in line with its share of CPP members.

Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland asked the government’s chief actuary to “provide an estimate of the asset transfer," and Alberta has paused public consultations on its pension proposal while it awaits that figure.

MOST DON'T SUPPORT THE PLAN

In the meantime, Angus Reid surveyed more than 3,700 Canadian voters about their attitudes toward the CPP exit debate, and found little support for the exit outside of loyal UCP voters. When asked to consider their own retirement, most Albertans said they are more comfortable with the CPP than they would be with a new Alberta Pension Plan.

Slightly less than half of Albertans (48 per cent) said they oppose the idea of forming a provincial pension plan and leaving the federal program. Thirty-six per cent of the respondents said they support the proposal.

This bar graph provided by the Angus Reid Institute shows Canadians' attitudes toward Alberta leaving the Canada Pension Plan, separated by province. (Angus Reid Institute)Much of the hesitation in Alberta appears to be around the amount of benefit available to Albertans if the province left the plan. Slightly more than half, or 51 per cent, believe there would be a net loss to their own retirement savings, while 31 per cent believe they would receive more under an Alberta pension plan, and 18 per cent believe there would be no change.

Men in Alberta are divided near-equally on all questions pertaining to Alberta's exit from the CPP, while women and younger voters are most concerned that the Alberta Pension Plan would be a bad deal for them, personally.

Angus Reid found few of the UCP's recent voters oppose the plan, though 21 per cent are uncertain.

Federal Conservatives, on the other hand, are much more divided, with 43 per cent of voters nationwide supporting the plan and 33 per cent opposing it. Among Liberal and NDP voters, the majority oppose the plan.

"Alberta’s departure from the CPP would be complicated by the need for international agreements to accommodate residents who spend most of their working life outside of the country…and concerns over the portability of such a program for those moving in or out of the province," the Angus Reid report states, adding that Quebec has similar agreements with 39 different countries.

"Nonetheless, if this process is pursued, it will evidently rankle many Albertans."

METHODOLOGY

The Angus Reid Institute conducted an online survey from Nov. 24 to Dec. 1, 2023, among a representative randomized sample of 3,749 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 1.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding. The survey was self-commissioned and paid for by Angus Reid.

– With files from The Canadian Press 

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