Nova Scotia Finance Minister Allan MacMaster says his counterparts across the country agreed during a meeting to have the federal government call on the chief actuary to produce an estimate of what would happen if Alberta left the Canada Pension Plan.
The western province's government has advanced the idea, along with a study that estimates what it believes it would be entitled to take with it from CPP if it were to establish its own plan. Experts have suggested the Alberta government overestimates its share, while some province's have expressed concern about what Alberta pulling out would mean for the remaining members of the plan.
The chief actuary is part of an independent unit that advises the federal government on the costs of pensions and other social programs, according to the office's website.
"I can tell you that every province expressed how much they care about the Canada Pension Plan — including Alberta," MacMaster told reporters at Province House in Halifax on Friday.
Although he told reporters on Thursday he would have more to say about Alberta's proposal following the meeting Friday, MacMaster declined to speculate on what it could mean if the province pulled out of CPP.
Wide support for national pension
"What I would say is the Canada Pension Plan is better with Alberta in it. We want them to stay. There was real consensus on that today."
One of the strengths of the plan is that it's portable and people are able to move with it from province to province, said MacMaster. Should Alberta pull out of CPP, MacMaster said it would have to be determined whether any new plan for residents of that province would be portable and what impact the change would have on people in the province who are now receiving CPP benefits.
"I don't want to cause concern for people. I want people to know that there's a strong consensus around the country about the importance of the Canada Pension Plan and we all want to work together to keep it the way it is."
Premier Tim Houston told reporters on Friday that he hasn't discussed the issue with Alberta Premier Danielle Smith. He said there could be talks "formally or informally" while Smith is in Halifax on Sunday and Monday as part of meetings with all of Canada's premiers.
Important issue, say critics
Liberal Leader Zach Churchill said Houston is not showing leadership on the file.
"We've got seniors on fixed incomes who are depending on CPP to survive," he said.
"I'm completely blown away that he just ignores this issue and pretends that it's not a big thing."
NDP Leader Claudia Chender said Houston has avoided being definitive on how he feels about the issue and what he's prepared to do about it.
"CPP is a very well-funded pension plan and one that people across this country — and certainly across our province, which has some of the lowest incomes in the country — rely upon. And so it's not just something that's happening somewhere else."
While MacMaster and Houston had little detail to provide on the CPP debate, both had plenty to say about the carbon tax and the need for Ottawa to take even further steps to roll back its implementation. Late last month, the federal government announced a three-year pause on the carbon tax being applied to home heating oil, to give homeowners more time to switch over to heat pumps.
MacMaster said provincial finance ministers attempted to raise the issue during their meeting with federal Finance Minister Chrystia Feeland, which had been called to discuss Alberta's CPP proposal. Governments in other parts of the country not included in the pause have argued that it should apply to other methods to heat homes, such as natural gas. The federal government has rejected that request.
Late on Friday, the Nova Scotia government released a joint statement with the governments of New Brunswick, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta calling on Ottawa to remove the carbon tax.
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