Alberta allowed to leave CPP, but would be a 'one-way ticket': employment minister

Randy Boissonnault

Employment Minister Randy Boissonnault says while Alberta is legally allowed to withdraw from the Canada Pension Plan, doing so would be a “one way ticket,” with no chance of return.

Alberta’s UCP has been mulling the idea of leaving the CPP and forming its own pension plan since 2020, but Premier Danielle Smith recently took the next step by releasing a report about a plan to do so and saying public feedback would determine the need for a referendum.

Boissonnault told CTV’s Question Period host Vassy Kapelos in an interview airing Sunday that once a province chooses to withdraw from the CPP, it kicks off a timeline laid out in the 1965 legislation and can’t be undone.

“If Albertans decided a referendum to pull out of the CPP, they will be able to do that, but it's a one way ticket,” said Boissonnault, who is also an Alberta MP.

“You don't get to come back, that's also very clear in this legislation,” he also said, adding he believes Alberta’s withdrawal would be “destabilizing.”

The report by the consulting company LifeWorks — on which the Alberta government is basing its cost-benefit calculations for a possible Alberta Pension Plan — estimates that the Western province will be entitled to $334 billion by the time it leaves the CPP in 2027, which is nearly half the total amount in the federal fund.

Smith and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau went back and forth this week about the possible move.

In an open letter to Smith, Trudeau wrote that "Alberta's withdrawal would weaken the pensions of millions of seniors and hardworking people in Alberta and right across the country. The harm it would cause is undeniable."

Smith fired back, calling the prime minister’s letter “inappropriate in tone.”

"It was overwraught,” she added. “The calculation in the report suggests yes, there will be some impact to the rest of Canada if Alberta chooses to go its own way, but it's a matter of $175 per person."

Smith was not available for an interview on CTV's Question Period.

According to the Canada Pension Plan Act, a province wishing to withdraw must negotiate with the federal government and come to an agreement on how to do so.

When asked whether the federal government has plans to conduct its own analysis of how much Alberta might be owed if it chooses to go forward with its plans to leave the CPP and whether it has any recourse to prevent Alberta’s exit, Boissonnault said at this point the focus is on keeping the current system intact.

“The Prime Minister is very clear. He's asked all ministers to do what they can to support Albertans who want to stay in the pension plan, and to defend the Canadian pension plan,” he said.

“So we're going to do that work,” he added. “I suspect we'll have numbers from finance and various different departments on this over time.”

Boissonnault said this is an issue on which the federal and Alberta governments “disagree fiercely,” and said he believes Albertans don’t need the “stress,” “anxiety,” and “distraction” of the debate right now.

-With files from CTV’s Question Period Senior Producer Stephanie Ha and CTV News Edmonton’s Craig Ellingson