Joint statement from the leaders of Alberta’s largest labour organizations
EDMONTON - For the past two days, Albertans have been justifiably preoccupied with the implications that Bill 22 has for democracy in our province.
Most people agree that no one, including the most powerful politicians, should be above the law.
That’s why so many people are outraged and alarmed by the UCP’s decision to fire the Legislature’s independent Elections Commissioner.
Even Donald Trump was not able to fire the special prosecutor who was investigating him. But that is effectively what Jason Kenney and the UCP are trying to do with Bill 22.
What the Kenney government is trying to get away with is both unprecedented and dangerous. And Albertans are right to be angry, indignant and profoundly worried.
But, as bad as it is, this is not the only big problem will the legislation introduced this week by the UCP.
Bill 22 is, without a doubt, an attack on democracy in our province; but it’s also an attack on the pension security of literally hundreds of thousands of Albertans.
Every day, in every corner of our province, millions of working Albertans make contributions to funds designed to provide them with some measure of security in their retirement years.
For example, all workers pay 5.1 per cent of their wages into the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). These contributions are matched by their employers.
Most public-sector workers pay an additional 10 per cent of their salaries into their workplace pension plans.
It is these huge pools of personal savings that Premier Jason Kenney and his UCP government have targeted with Bill 22.
In the case of the CPP, the UCP wants to redirect the billions of dollars that Albertans contribute to the plan every year into a new Alberta-only plan.
Experts agree that it would cost millions to withdraw from CPP and set up and run a separate Alberta plan. They also agree that an Alberta-only plan would be less portable and more vulnerable to economic down turns.
In the case of the Alberta Teachers Retirement Fund (ATRF), the UCP wants to essentially expropriate the money that teachers have been managing for themselves and put into the hands of AIMCo, the money manager owned by the provincial government.
The teachers have made it clear that this is not their preference.
And in the case of Alberta’s biggest public-sector pension plans – the Local Authorities Pensions Plan and the Public Services Pension Plan – the UCP wants to assert government control over the pension boards and remove the option that the plans currently have of switching fund managers in the event they lose confidence in AIMCo.
The thing that all of these changes have in common is power. The UCP wants to control the billions and billions of dollars that millions of individual Albertans have been saving diligently for their own retirements.
In response to this blatant grab for money and control, we, the representatives of more than 300,000 working Albertans, have a three-part message for the Premier and members of his government.
First, this isn’t your money. It belongs to the millions of Albertans who saved it month after month, year after year. How can a party that styles itself as a champion of individual rights be so cavalier with other people’s money?
Second, you don’t have permission. You never mentioned sweeping changes to Alberta’s retirement system in the recent election: so, you do not have a mandate to any of this.
Third, you don’t have the confidence of the people who this money really belongs to.
Working Albertans did not ask the UCP to interfere in the administration of their pensions, nor do they have confidence that they will run those plans in a fair or responsible way.
In fact, we’re worried that what you’re attempting to do is use other people’s money to create a huge slush fund to finance an agenda that has not yet been articulated to the public – and which most people would not feel comfortable using their life savings to support.
For these reasons, on behalf all working Albertans, we demand that you keep your hands off our retirement savings! And you can do that by killing Bill 22 and abandoning your reckless and irresponsible plan to withdraw from CPP.
Gil McGowan, President, Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL)
Guy Smith, President, Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE)
Heather Smith, President, United Nurses of Alberta (UNA)
Mike Parker, President, Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA)
Rory Gill, President, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE Alberta Divisions)
Jason Schilling, President, Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA)
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