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Freeland won't say how long it could take to determine what Alberta entitled from CPP




Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland is staying tight-lipped about when Canadians can expect a determination on how much Alberta would be entitled to if it opts out of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). Citing the "complicated" nature of pensions and the necessity for input from all provinces and territories, Freeland refrained from providing a specific timeline during a press briefing following her meeting with provincial and territorial counterparts.


The Finance Minister reported that officials had presented their progress to the group on Friday, detailing the intricacies involved in arriving at the entitlement figure requested from the chief actuary back in November. The consensus among the officials was to reconvene in January for further discussions to assess the ongoing work.


This special meeting was convened in response to Alberta Premier Danielle Smith's persistent efforts to withdraw from the CPP in favor of establishing a provincial pension plan. Smith initiated the push in September, releasing a Lifeworks report estimating Alberta's entitlement at a whopping $334 billion, or 53% of the CPP, if an independent pension program is launched. However, conflicting estimates from economists, including those associated with the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, put Alberta's share closer to its membership percentage, at approximately 15%.


To bring clarity to this debate, Freeland sought a definitive number from the chief actuary. However, when pressed on a potential timeline for this determination, she remained non-committal, stating her reluctance to answer hypothetical questions.


"I learned during the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations never to answer hypothetical questions. It's not a good idea for an elected political leader," she remarked.


Freeland emphasized the technical complexity of the task at hand and affirmed the commitment to a careful, deliberate, and transparent approach in defining the parameters for the work. She noted the emotional nature of the discussions, acknowledging the widespread concern among Canadians about the certainty of receiving their pensions.


In response to questions about the meeting's pension-related discussions, Alberta Finance Minister Nate Horner expressed satisfaction with Freeland's agreement that the chief actuary should rely on their own legal analysis rather than federal government assertions. Horner emphasized that the decision to move forward with an Alberta pension plan ultimately rests with Albertans.


Freeland underscored that any province or territory has the right to exit the federal pension plan, but she reiterated the federal government's stance that the current system is robust and enviable on a global scale.


The meeting also touched upon various economic issues, including housing, inflation, and the overall economic outlook. Ontario Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy emphasized collaboration on the pension matter, viewing Alberta's continued participation in the CPP as beneficial for the entire nation.


While some ministers stressed the importance of a clear and timely process, others, like Saskatchewan Finance Minister Donna Harpauer, downplayed the urgency of addressing the pension issue immediately, characterizing it as a lengthy process. The discussions encompassed broader economic concerns, with Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem providing an update on the country's economic outlook during the meeting.


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