The Alberta government is set to release its long-promised report on whether the province should quit the Canada Pension Plan and pursue its own provincial program.
United Conservative Premier Danielle Smith, along with Finance Minister Nate Horner and panel chair Jim Dinning, are to release the report at a news conference in Calgary on Thursday.
The Opposition NDP says it has received leaked details of what is coming and says Albertans should prepare for some financial flim-flam on the potential benefits.
NDP finance critic Shannon Phillips says the report relies on an outdated financial withdrawal formula dating back to the CPP’s creation in the mid 1960s.
“The report is expected to claim Alberta is owed hundreds of billions of dollars from the fund,” Phillips said in a statement Tuesday.
“However, if every province used this formula, it would total nine times what is currently invested in the CPP.”
The Opposition NDP has accused Smith of playing politics with nest-egg savings, by using an Alberta pension plan to create a wedge issue with the federal government.
The NDP said the idea is offside with public sentiment, given opinion polls suggest ditching CPP is deeply unpopular with Albertans.
Horner’s office did not immediately return a request for an interview.
Economist Trevor Tombe said he’s interested in how the province plans to balance the potential short-term benefit of a young, prosperous Alberta leaving the CPP versus the long-term volatility that comes with fluctuations in demographics and the economy combined with a smaller pool of capital.
Tombe, with the University of Calgary, said the report could launch a multi-year political and legal battle over how a province can leave the CPP, what it gets and what the effect would be on other provinces.
“The CPP’s assets this year are pegged at $530 billion, a pretty significant amount of funds at stake,” said Tombe.
The report is being done by Lifeworks, formerly known as Morneau Shepell, which helps companies with employee and family assistance plans, absence management, pension benefits administration and retirement planning.
Smith has said regardless of the report's conclusions, Albertans would have the final say in a referendum.
Both Smith and her predecessor, Jason Kenney, have extolled the potential of a go-it-alone program, given Alberta's wealth and comparatively young population.
The issue has waxed and waned for the last two decades amid concerns Alberta puts in far more than it gets out and may benefit from a stand-alone benefit program such as in Quebec.
The UCP government began studying the Alberta option in earnest in June 2020 under Kenney. Later that year, the outside consultant was hired to study the benefits and drawbacks.
In March 2021, Kenney said work on the report was almost done and his government was just weeks away from announcing next steps. The report never materialized.
In February, Smith's office said the report was being updated to reflect new figures on the CPP.
Should it take steps to exit the CPP, Alberta would be charting new territory given that Quebec did not exit the plan, but rather didn't join it when the CPP was created.
The pension plan is part of a suite of measures championed by the UCP to carve out some space between Alberta and the federal government.
Other potential measures include a provincial police force and a separate revenue collection agency.
The provincial police force idea was spelled out in mandate letters to ministers when Smith first took office late last year, but disappeared from the revised mandate letters when she reshuffled her cabinet after winning the May 29 provincial election.
Last month, Justice Minister Mickey Amery said the provincial police force idea is not dead and said his department would continue to consult with Albertans on where they want to go with policing.