Breakenridge: Alberta authorities can't be each referee and cheerleader in pension debate

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If we realized nothing else final week, it’s that the Alberta authorities may be very a lot in favour of abandoning the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and establishing an Alberta Pension Plan (APP).

That’s to not essentially criticize that opinion. It’s in no way unreasonable to argue that an APP might ship comparable advantages for Albertans with decrease contribution charges.

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Then again, although, there are a selection of dangers and uncertainties that may’t be neglected. In all chance, that is one thing Albertans will solely determine as soon as — it’s vital to get it proper, to say the least.

The issue right here isn’t that the federal government has taken a place — and certainly their political opponents have very clearly staked out the other place — however somewhat that they’re making an attempt to have it each methods. One can’t be each a referee and a cheerleader. The Alberta authorities can’t be each an goal supply of data and the champion of the “Sure” facet within the should-we-leave-the-CPP debate.

This additionally begs the query of whether or not it is a listening tour the federal government is about to embark upon or a gross sales pitch. If it’s the latter, then the federal government ought to abandon the pretense of this “engagement panel” and simply go forward and plant their flag.

The downside to such candour, after all, is that it makes the gross sales pitch tougher. It’s way more efficient when the gross sales pitch may be packaged and offered as goal details.

After I requested Finance Minister Nate Horner final week concerning the awkwardness of getting a most popular end result to this course of whereas additionally being liable for offering the data that can form this course of, he defended their place by arguing that “there’s plenty of folks that can unfold, possibly, misinformation on the opposite facet … there’s plenty of those who want to see us keep within the CPP endlessly.” That very a lot seems like a authorities centered on convincing Albertans somewhat than merely informing them.

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The federal government would have us imagine that we’re entitled to 50 per cent of the CPP’s present belongings. That’s definitely debatable, nevertheless it’s useful to the pursuit of a particular end result if that declare is held up as a longtime reality. To make sure, an APP is way more interesting if our place to begin is such a colossal pot of cash.

A separate working paper from economist Trevor Tombe reaches a a lot totally different conclusion: Alberta’s share of CPP belongings could be nearer to twenty per cent. That might imply much less of a drop in premiums, however nonetheless a drop nonetheless. Nevertheless, there are additionally prices and dangers that might threaten these advantages.

Prof. Tombe additionally notes that the identical argument that will get Alberta to 50 per cent additionally will get Ontario to over 50 per cent. Nobody of their proper thoughts imagines a state of affairs the place two provinces might stroll away with greater than 100 per cent of the CPP’s belongings.

Sadly, a referendum on the pension query would seemingly come lengthy earlier than any finality on simply what Alberta is entitled to. We’re being requested to belief a authorities that isn’t being completely forthcoming about its intentions and motives. On such an vital situation, Albertans deserve a lot better.

“Afternoons with Rob Breakenridge” airs weekdays 12:30-3 pm on QR Calgary

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