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Alberta government to host telephone town halls on prospect of quitting Canada Pension Plan

Alberta is to begin telephone town-hall consultations with the public starting next week on whether to quit the Canada Pension Plan.

But the Opposition NDP says if Premier Danielle Smith’s United Conservative Party government is going to meddle with every Albertan’s retirement nest egg, it should do it face to face.

An engagement panel led by former provincial finance minister Jim Dinning announced Thursday there will be five 90-minute town-hall discussions over six weeks, each session focused on getting feedback from a different region.

The first session is set for Monday from 6:30 to 8 p.m. for residents in northern Alberta. The next ones will be for those in southern Alberta, Calgary, and Edmonton before wrapping up with callers from central Alberta on Nov. 22.

“Now that the LifeWorks report is out for discussion, our panel has been tasked with listening to Albertans and hearing their thoughts, views and concerns about a provincial pension plan,” Dinning said in a statement.

“For something this big, Albertans deserve the benefit of a rational, adult conversation.”

The report by pension analyst LifeWorks calculates the province deserves more than half of the $575 billion in the CPP fund, and says with that money an Alberta pension plan could deliver lower contribution costs and higher payouts.

Critics say the report’s math is questionable, and the federal government and other provinces would never allow one member to take half the CPP.

The NDP says Albertans have already made their feelings known in numerous public surveys that suggest a majority don’t want the province to touch CPP.

The NDP is holding its own online consultation with Albertans on the topic on Oct. 19 at 6:30 p.m., hosted by caucus finance critics Shannon Phillips and Samir Kayande.

Albertans deserve a face-to-face dialogue, Phillips said in a statement.

“The fact that the so-called [government] consultation on the future of the Canada Pension Plan does not include any in-person town halls is a move of pure cowardice,” she said.

“The UCP refuses to look Albertans in the eye and tell them why they’re moving aggressively to gamble their pension away.”

Dinning plans to consult Albertans in the coming months and then deliver a recommendation to Smith’s government on whether there is sufficient interest from Albertans on pursuing a provincial plan.

If so, Smith has said there would be a referendum and a majority of Albertans would have to give the OK and then the province would have to give three years’ notice to set up the infrastructure for its own plan.

Smith said the potential benefits of an Alberta plan make it imperative she at least allow for fulsome debate on it.

No province has ever left the CPP, which was created in the mid-1960s. Quebec never joined the CPP.

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