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UCP voters' support for Alberta pension plan dwindles, new poll suggests

Jim Dinning watches as Premier Danielle Smith speaks at the Sept. 21 release of a report about an Alberta pension plan. Dinning, a former provincial finance minister, heads an engagement panel. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta - image credit)
Jim Dinning watches as Premier Danielle Smith speaks at the Sept. 21 release of a report about an Alberta pension plan. Dinning, a former provincial finance minister, heads an engagement panel. (Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta - image credit)

A new poll from Leger released Monday suggests Albertans are becoming less keen on opting out of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) in exchange for a provincial plan, with a pronounced decline among UCP voters.

"We saw, in late October, a little bit of an increase in the percentage of Albertans who were inclined to support the move by the government to create an Alberta pension plan," said Andrew Enns, executive vice-president of Leger.

"What we saw in this poll, in early January, was actually a decline in the support numbers."

The Leger poll suggests overall support for the UCP government's pitch to develop a new, provincial pension plan has decreased by five per cent since last fall, and now only 22 per cent of Albertans believe the switch to an Alberta-only plan should happen.

When Leger conducted a survey in October, 54 per cent of UCP supporters were on board with the government's proposal. Now, that number is only 40 per cent.

The report is from an online survey of 1,012 Albertans aged 18 and up, weighted for Canadian census figures using non-probability sampling. There's no margin of error, but for comparative purposes, a probability sample of 1,012 respondents would have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Enns believes there are a few components behind the decline in support for the province's pension proposal — namely, a lack of engagement.

"When we fast forward to January, you've just come through December, which is typically a month where a lot of public affairs-type issues tend to drop in intensity because there's other distractions," he said.

"I think the [provincial] government itself hasn't been as active, from what I understand, in really … promoting this issue."

In an email statement to CBC News, the Government of Alberta said it is waiting on more analysis from the Office of the Chief Actuary of Canada, which would outline its "opinion of the value of the asset transfer Alberta would be entitled to receive" if the province were to back out of the CPP.

"We remain committed to providing Albertans all the information they need to make an informed decision on an Alberta Pension Plan. This is their pension and their choice," reads the statement.

Pension promo wanes

The UCP government's proposal launched in September 2023 after a report commissioned by government promised Albertans over $330 billion in pension contributions if it were to withdraw from the CPP.

Since then, Enns said, the pension discourse has died down, especially after receiving pushback from the feds, which may have resonated with the UCP's voter base.

And overall, Albertans in general seem to be feeling slightly less informed than they were three months ago about what the provincial government wants to do with their pensions, according to Leger's survey data.

The survey shows that 69 per cent of respondents know about the province-only pension proposal, a two per cent decrease since October.

Ultimately, Enns said, he believes the Leger research indicates more work has to be done to convince Albertans that an Alberta-only pension plan is the way to go.

"The numbers right now certainly don't suggest that this is going to be a winning policy for the government in terms of trying to push through at this stage," he said.

"The government is going to have to get more active in terms of communicating the merits of this to the population at large, not just its own supporters, quite frankly."