By Kendall King
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Local NDP candidates are calling out the province’s UCP government over talk of potentially pulling Alberta from the Canada Pension Plan.
Brooks-Medicine Hat candidate Gwendoline Dirk and Cypress-Medicine Hat candidate Cathy Hogg came together earlier this month to share concerns over the impact leaving the CPP and establishing a provincial pension plan would have on constituents, and outline the NDP’s position.
After taking over as Alberta Premier last year, Danielle Smith, who is running as the UCP candidate for Brooks-Medicine Hat, directed Finance Minister Travis Towes to compile a report on the potential creation of an Alberta pension plan.
While Smith assured voters no movement would be made until the report was presented, and no changes legislated without a referendum vote in favour, she has been vocal in her belief that Albertans over contribute to the federal pension plan, and would be better off having total control over contributions.
The NDP has collectively opposed that view, arguing it would jeopardize the retirement security of current and future retirees.
“People have worked hard for their CPP and they need to know that it is there for them when they retire,” Dirk said during the public address. “But that is all under threat by Daniel Smith and her UCP candidates. They continue to actively pursue a plan to pull Alberta out of the Canada Pension Plan.”
Dirk and Hogg were joined by two retired city residents, who expressed concern that loss of their CPP pensions, even with a provincial pension, would effect their livelihood, with the CPP currently their only means of income.
“We have heard from folks all across the southeast corner of the province about these very concerns,” said Hogg. “It’s important to note too, that Medicine Hat has a very large population of folks over 65 who rely on CPP and Daniel Smith’s threat to pensions has caused a lot of anxiety.
“A government led by Rachel Notley will take a better approach.”
Hogg outlined the NDP’s plan to, if elected, enact new legislation which prevents Alberta from leaving the CPP under any government, endorse joint-governance over public-sector pension plans and promote expansion private-sector pension plans.
“What we’re guaranteeing is people have a seat at the table,” said Hogg. “(Under the NDP), public-sector pension plans will be given representation on the AIMCo board and if investment performance in the long run is not satisfactory, we will allow those plans to leave.”
In terms of private-sector pension plans, Hogg shared the NDP’s hopes to create a task force comprised of private-sector leaders, with Alberta Investment Management Corporation acting as the investment manager and Alberta Pension Services Corporation as the administrator.
“If we can expand private-sector pensions through the this model to 100,000 more Alberta workers, it would cost the government about $17.5 million,” said Hogg. “But it would be transformative for the retirement security of so many Albertans, and it would help employers attract and retain workers.”
Dirk highlighted the importance of attracting new workers, such as physicians, educators and experts in various fields, as their presence also contributes to enhancing Albertans’ quality of life.