EDMONTON, ALBERTA--(Marketwired - Oct. 29, 2013) - Premier Alison Redford is out of step with the retirement needs of the citizens in her own province, says the president of Alberta's largest worker organization.
On Friday, the premier told reporters that "Albertans feel comfortable with where they are" on pensions and retirement income. Her comments are contradicted by polling conducted by the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).
Redford made her comments in response to suggestions from Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne that the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) should be expanded to address a looming crisis in retirement income.
"The last time the issue of CPP expansion was on the national agenda, we conducted a province-wide poll that paints a very different picture than the one Premier Redford attempted to paint this weekend," Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. "The poll was conducted in late 2010 and it showed that many Albertans are worried about their own preparedness for retirement. It also shows that Albertans support the concept of CPP expansion in the same overwhelming numbers as Canadians in other parts of the country."
High levels of support among Albertans for CPP expansion are not surprising given the fact that Alberta has the lowest percentage (30 per cent) of workers covered by workplace pensions in the country. At the same time, only about 38 per cent of Albertans contribute to RRSPs, and the median contribution is only $3,200 per year.
"A clear majority of working Albertans are facing the prospect of hard times when they retire, if they can retire at all," McGowan said. "That's why I was so shocked when Premier Redford was so quick to dismiss Premier Wynne's proposals last week. When will the Alberta government get out of the way and stop obstructing a pension solution that is supported by every other province and the majority of its own citizens?"
The poll that McGowan referred to was commissioned by the AFL and the CLC. It was conducted in October 2010. Here are a few of the poll's findings:
- 59.9 per cent of Albertans said they felt insecure about their retirement
- 75.9 per cent of Albertans felt that the CPP's maximum annual payout of about $11,000 was too low
- 63.5 per cent of Albertans support the concept of expanding CPP
- 71.2 per cent of Albertans said the Alberta government should get out of the way and allow changes to CPP
McGowan says he was also surprised by Redford's comments because they contradicted statements she made in 2010.
"Back in late 2010, as part of our campaign to support CPP expansion, a group of about 60 of our members and activists met face-to-face with MLAs at the Alberta Legislature," McGowan recalls.
"One of the MLAs who met with us was Alison Redford, who at the time was Minister of Justice. I remember it clearly because she was the highest-ranking member of the government caucus who agreed to meet with us. At that time, she told our members who visited her office that she knew Albertans were worried about having enough money to retire. We were thrilled because we thought she got it. Now we're left wondering why the Premier has changed her tune."