Home Retirement Bell: Alberta Pension Plan, face it Smith UCP — it’s on life support

Bell: Alberta Pension Plan, face it Smith UCP — it’s on life support

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In no part of Alberta is the provincial pension a win

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It’s not there. The arithmetic is not there.

Talking to Premier Danielle Smith just before Christmas and she was thinking the math will be there some day.

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“The more people see it, the more support there is for it,” said Smith, of the Alberta Pension Plan.

For most Albertans polled by this scribbler this is one trial balloon not getting off the ground.

When it comes to an Alberta Pension Plan the answer for many is No.

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You know the reasons.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.

The true-believing backers of the Alberta Pension Plan must be happy the latest Leger nose count came out Friday with the weekend in sight.

It was dismal.

Only just over one in five said Yes to getting out of the CPP for an Alberta Pension Plan, down five points from last fall.

One in four are on the fence. A majority are No.

Not even most UCP voters are a Yes and that’s down 14 points since last fall.

Digging into the arithmetic, six in ten Albertans 55 and older are already a No while around one in five are a Yes with the rest undecided.

These are the people either collecting CPP or soon to be cashing the cheques and they vote.

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In no part of Alberta is the provincial pension a win.

Those who strongly disagree with the Alberta Pension Plan far outnumber those who strongly agree and they are most likely to vote.

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But Smith and her team are nothing if not determined.

Smith and her government are still pitching an Alberta plan and point to possible lower premiums and higher benefits and a bonus when you retire because pension contributions from Albertans are greater than what retirees in Alberta receive in return.

Smith has said she isn’t surprised a provincial pension plan hasn’t got a whole lot of love.

“Look, when you’ve got a program that people never really even thought about and then you say maybe you should do something different the first reaction of people is: Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Why are you doing this?”

They’re still saying Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Why are you doing this?

We all know former premier Jason Kenney rolled out this brainwave back in 2019 right after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won the election.

There was a real fear in the UCP a slice of their voters would be so frustrated they would consider separatism seriously.

Kenney offered these individuals the opportunity to go to a public meeting and say their piece and a report came back with what you would expect.

Go down the road to an Alberta Pension Plan with a Yes/No vote in a referendum before the exit button is pushed.

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As we also all know there wasn’t any talk about the pension plan during the election.

The UCP didn’t need to be scalded by that hot potato when they needed votes.

When the dust settled, a report the UCP government commissioned was released and said if Alberta withdrew from the CPP it would score an amazing $334 billion.

The government was positively giddy.

The Smith government tried to sell people an Alberta pension. It was so good!

Immediately all sorts questioned such a big number.

The flyer on a potential Alberta pension plan was mailed out by the provincial government in the fall of 2023. Photo by Alberta Government /Postmedia Network

“You didn’t even need to pay attention to any pointed-head person like myself. It didn’t pass the sniff test,” says noted Calgary economist Trevor Tombe.

The UCP pitched an Alberta pension plan as a “slam dunk” and “that’s only because of the incredible number and I think people saw through that.”

The federal government’s Office of the Chief Actuary is working on the math and the smart money bets that number or numbers will not be as glowing.

Smith has said she could take the feds to court and meanwhile the clock will tick and what happens if Trudeau and the Liberals are out and Pierre Poilievre and the Conservatives rule the roost in Ottawa?

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Will there be the same appetite to give Ottawa a swift kick in the butt?

Tombe, the well-respected cruncher of numbers, sees the amount of dough Alberta scores from exiting the CPP more in the range of $100 billion to $150 billion.

His figures work out to added benefits for pensioners in the ballpark of $300 or $400 a year, around $25 or $30 a month.

“That’s just not worth the additional risk for your pension.”

The man working the numbers says Alberta alone with its own pension plan is “riskier by its very nature.”

Still, Smith will abandon ship on this one only if most Albertans insist.

“If they choose to say we know we’re overpaying, we have no control over how that money is invested, we know that’s going to continue in the future but we’re OK with it then that’s the way it’s going to go.”

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