March 1st, 2024

NDP pension town hall draws full house

By Brendan Miller on February 1, 2024.

Medicine Hat resident Colette Smithers shares her concerns with the proposed Alberta Pension Plan during a town hall hosted by several NDP MLAs at the Medicine Hat Public Library last night.--NEWS PHOTO BRENDAN MILLER

bmiller@medicinehatnews.com

More than 130 people packed the library’s Honor Currie Room to attend a town hall-style meeting with NDP Lethbridge-West MLA Shannon Phillips and Calgary-Foothills MLA Court Ellingson for a conversation around the province’s proposed Alberta Pension Plan.

Extra chairs and space were needed to accommodate the number of people who attended, and not all could fit in the room.

Members of the public were given two minutes to share their thoughts and ask MLA questions around the proposed pension plan that would see Alberta withdraw from the Canadian Pension Plan.

“People are really worried about their CPP,” Phillips told the News. “It’s the money that comes off your cheque every month since the first job that you had when you were a teenager. And it’s a key part of your retirement security when you retire.”

Several residents shared concerns surrounding the Alberta Pension Plan that the premier claims will save Albertans more than $5 billion in the first year after leaving the Canada Pension Plan.

“I simply want to make a comment that I believe the level of arrogance, entitlement and willful ignorance it takes to even remotely consider an Alberta Pension Plan as presented by the UCP is beyond the pale,” resident Colette Smithers said during the open house.

Smithers told the town hall she is worried the proposed plan could reduce or eliminate employer contributions to the CPP and believes it’s not a good long-term investment for Albertans.

“The provincial government is not entitled to that money,” said 64-year-old resident Doug Bader. “What ticks me off is that they are using the Alberta pension numbers as a collective as opposed to an individual plan. And they’re being very deceptive.”

Bader is worried the province may increase the contribution rate of pensioners and raise the age in which a pensioner can draw from the plan.

Phillips says the proposed APP could cost Albertans more money by drawing a comparison between the CPP and Quebec’s Provincial Pension Plan. On average, pensioners in Quebec pay 6.4 per cent where as the rest of the country’s contributions on average are 5.95 per cent for the same benefits.

“That shows the benefits of living in a great country,” Phillips said.

Tom Simpson told the town hall he believes the UCP is using the APP to “poke a finger in the eye of the federal government” and says he would like the province to focus on other issues affecting Albertans.

“I feel there are many more important things the government should be pursuing like housing, health, the environment, the cost of living, etc,” said Simpson.

Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Justin Wright commented on several pension protests occurring outside MLA offices across the province.

“I am aware of the union-led pension protest taking place at MLA offices across the province. I support Albertans’ right to protest peacefully and this is no different,” Wright said in a statement he provided the News. “I also continue to encourage all Albertans to get the independent facts on the potential benefits of an Alberta pension plan at AlbertaPensionPlan.ca. In the end these are Albertans’ pensions and what happens to them will be Albertans’ choice.”

Under Bill 2 the Alberta Pension Plan would require Albertans vote in a referendum, but the bill does not make those results binding. The bill also aims to also guarantee Albertans would pay the same or lower contribution rates and receive the same or better benefits as the CPP. As well, the entire asset amount transferred from the CPP to Alberta would only be used to set up and operate an APP.

The standard age to start the CPP is 65, however you can start receiving it as early as 60 or as late as 70.

Three other NDP MLAs attended the town hall including Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Rakhi Pancholi, Edmonton-Glenora MLA Sarah Hoffman and Edmonton South West MLA Nathan Ip.

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