Alberta Premier Alison Redford is distancing herself from a provincial push to expand the Canada Pension Plan, stating that Albertans are already saving enough for retirement.
The Premier's comments to reporters in Calgary on Friday came after a morning meeting with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who was hoping to gain Ms. Redford's support for an expanded CPP. Ontario and Prince Edward Island are leading a push for changes that would phase in premium increases to pay for higher benefits. Officials are working on a white paper that will be presented to provincial finance ministers next week in Toronto.
"What I told Premier Wynne is I support the fact that she is looking to this. It's not for us a priority at the moment," Ms. Redford said. "We'll always keep an open mind and see how the work progresses. But it's not something where we are signing up to join the effort to bring this to be a national issue. … Our sense is that Albertans feel comfortable with where they are in their planning for long term."
The premiers are expected to discuss CPP reform at a yet-to-be scheduled meeting in November before federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty meets his provincial and territorial colleagues in December to decide whether to proceed with CPP changes.
Alberta's position does not defeat the efforts of Ontario and PEI, but given the lukewarm interest from federal Conservatives, it is not clear where the debate will lead.
Reforming the CPP requires the support of two-thirds of the provinces representing two-thirds of the national population. The federal government must also support any change. PEI Finance Minister Wes Sheridan, who has put forward specific ideas for expanding the CPP, told The Globe and Mail this week that he believes that level of support is within reach.
Despite Ms. Redford's reticence, Ms. Wynne sounded an optimistic note. She also suggested – contrary to her Alberta counterpart's assertion – that Ms. Redford is concerned about pensions.
"We both recognize – she recognizes and I recognize – that there is a problem," she told reporters after a lunch-hour speech to a business crowd in downtown Calgary. "There is not enough saving going on among people across the country."
She appeared to hope Ms. Redford could be persuaded to change her mind.
"I think Premier Redford understands a bit better where we're coming from," Ms. Wynne said. "It was a good initial conversation. She and I haven't really had much in-depth conversation about that issue up until now, so I was glad to open it with her."
In 2010, an attempt by Mr. Flaherty to get support for a "modest" enhancement to the CPP faced resistance from Alberta and Quebec. Those provinces combined are big enough in population to block a change.
Quebec now has a Parti Québécois government. Provincial Finance Minister Nicolas Marceau was not available for an interview on Friday.
The PQ's most recent budget said Quebec "will continue working with the other provinces and the federal government to assess the possibility of making a gradual and fully funded improvement to the Québec Pension Plan and the Canada Pension Plan."
With reports from Adrian Morrow in Toronto and Jeff Jones in Calgary