Menu Close

Alberta Ditching the CPP: Rooted in Western Alienation

By Stephanie Levett

Alberta’s ongoing negotiations with the Canadian federal government to leave the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) to create a provincial plan (APP) will have negative effects on hardworking Canadians contributing to the national program.

Recent calls for separation were initiated on the basis of the province’s higher rates of contribution. With supporters claiming it is an “obligation” for Alberta to opt out for higher benefits.

The current perceived benefits proposed by Premier Smith are unrealistic and brings to question the deficits this amendment would make, if approved.

But regardless of the debatable benefits or drawbacks, there is a looming issue that needs to be addressed first.

Vague Guidelines for Withdraw

The CPP Act does allow provinces to apply to withdraw from the national program if two requirements are met. The provincial government must provide 3 years’ written notice and arrangement for comparable benefits in lieu.

However, it is not that simple.

Given Alberta’s nearly 60 years of ‘marriage’ to the program, there are many considerations including the province’s entitlement of assets and the consequential deficits.

Consultation with Albertans and other Canadian provinces currently contributing to the program should not be overlooked. With the recent polls displaying a highly divided public opinion, it is clear that not everyone is enthusiastic about the APP.

Premier Smith’s Multi-Billion Dollar Promise

In a recent report, the Alberta government claims they are entitled to an astonishing $334 billion of the program’s net assets by January of 2027. This translates to over 50% of the fund’s total assets.

Alberta’s Premier Danielle Smith, a highly motivated, long-standing supporter of the separation, has proudly shared this estimated entitlement. In an effort to further convince Albertans of the perceived benefits, she has gone on to say that the APP would save Albertans $1400/year (5.91%), while other Canadians would see their annual contributions increase by $175/year (10.6%).

However, the feasibility of these estimations has become a subject of widespread skepticism.

Calculations conducted by outside organizations and individuals have resulted in lower estimations of entitlement. Trevor Tombe, an economist from the University of Calgary, concludes Alberta’s entitled is 20-25% of the CPP’s present assets. A dramatic difference to the suggested entitlements being shared by Smith’s government.

And there is danger in continuing to spread these conflicting estimations. With a tentatively referendum set for 2025, we cannot expect the public to make an informed vote on the issue without a clear numeric figure to vote on.

The Difference Between QPP and APP

Quebec’s pension plan (QPP) has been used as leverage to try and demonstrate that an agreement with the federal government is feasible and that the APP could be sustainable.

However, this comparison is far from realistic.

As Quebec opted out of the CPP at its point of introduction, in 1966. They have only ever contributed to their provincial plan, in comparison to Alberta who has been contributing to the CPP for nearly 60 years.

The idea behind the national program is that working Canadians contribute to the fund so when they retire, they have a financial safeguard. However, if Alberta ditches the CPP, taking their proposed entitlements, it will leave fellow Canadians with a deficit to fill.

Addressing the Elephant in the Room

Due to the vague requirements outlined in the CPP Act, Alberta’s case for leaving the national program must be considered by the federal government. However, underneath the debates of asset entitlement and the sustainability of the APP is a looming issue that cannot be overlooked.

The original initiative for the APP was introduced in “The Firewall Letter” by a group of Albertans in 2001 and was based on feelings of Western alienation. This is “the elephant in the room.”

This longstanding perception of Ottawa’s favouritism towards the Central provinces while punishing the West with “damaging federal policies” surfaces time and time again.

And now is the time to address it.

Given the unanimous distrust of Alberta’s claims of entitlement being “an impossible figure”, it is unlikely that the federal government will determine their entitlement to be anything close to the 53% which they proposed. Which will only further the frustrations between Alberta and Ottawa.

Therefore, the federal government must first address Alberta’s calls to renegotiate policies putting harmful restrictions on their economy and begin building better relations. Separation from the CPP will only create further divide and cause economy uncertainty for other Canadians.

Where is the ‘Safe’ in the Safe Third Country Agreement?

By: Mariana Guevara Hernandez

Canada is known to be a refugee ‘friendly’ country: in 2023 (Jan – Oct), 112,780 asylum claimants were processed. However, Canada is not as ‘friendly’ towards refugee seekers who have first arrived in the U.S. This is due to an agreement, known as the Safe Third Country Agreement, between the U.S and Canada, which requires the refugee seeker to make their claim in the first ‘safe’ country they arrive at. 

However, not every asylum seeker wishes to stay in the U.S.A. for different political, economic, and social reasons. This agreement has only pushed asylum seekers to risk their lives trying to cross the U.S.–Canada border through irregular passing rather than staying in the U.S.

Instead of seeing refugees risk their lives trying to cross the border and forcing them to live in a place they do not feel comfortable in, the Canadian government should remove the Safe Third Country Agreement.

The Safe Third Country Agreement was signed between Canada and the U.S. in 2002 to manage access to the refugee system better and regulate the crossings at their shared land border. This agreement states that the refugees must ask for protection in the first country they arrive at, with some exceptions. Currently, Canada defines the U.S. as a ‘safe’ country. Therefore, if refugees arrive first in the U.S., they are forced to make their claim there and may no longer do it in Canada.

The original agreement stated that refugees would be rejected at official port crossings. This created a loophole where refugee seekers started crossing through unofficial ports of entry such as Roxham Road, Québec. In March 2023, this loophole was amended, and the agreement now covers the whole land border.

The Roxham Road case is often used as an example of why the agreement should be upheld. Before the amendment, the province of Québec saw an increase in the number of refugees they received. In 2022, 64% of asylum claims were made in Québec, which strained the education, housing and social systems. People claim that without the agreement, this would happen again, and refugees wouldn’t have a good quality of life.

However, this only happened because of the loophole in the agreement. If it were to be removed, the refugee intake would not concentrate on just a port of entry, but it would be distributed through the whole land border, and an official port of entry would be able to handle this.

The reality is that the irregular crossings have not been stopped; in 2023, 22,316 asylum claims were made by irregular crossers. What has changed is that refugees have chosen to cross through more dangerous parts of the border, willing to risk their lives. Like the story of Seidu Mohammed, who, fearing deportation in the U.S., almost froze to death and had to have his fingers amputated due to the frostbite he suffered once he managed to cross the border. Without the agreement, maybe Seidu would still have his fingers today.

Furthermore, the situation in the U.S. has clearly changed over the years. There has been a rise in polarization and xenophobia over the years. Their immigration policies have also changed, and the way that the U.S. has been seen to deal with immigrants is less than ideal. With the news breaking of the poor conditions of their detention centers, holding children in cages, mass deportation and the separation of families, it is understandable how asylum seekers would not longer feel safe there.  Yet, Canada keeps turning a blind eye.

As stated by the general secretary of Amnesty International Canada, the agreement endangers asylum seekers and puts them and their rights at risk.

People should not need to risk their lives just because it was ‘easier’ for them to arrive in the U.S. Asylum seekers should be able to choose where to start their new lives after uprooting their previous ones. They should feel safe in the new country and not have to decide to keep risking their lives because they arrived in ‘the wrong country.’ Canada should show its support for refugees by removing the Safe Third Country Agreement.

Is Punishing Canadians for Personal Illegal Drug Use Still the Answer?

By Beth Fleming

The harm to citizens caused by substance use across Canada is substantial: drug overdoses, gun violence, addiction, school dropouts, mental health problems and negative financial repercussions.

Alarmingly, 21% of Canadians will experience a substance use disorder during their lifetime and the pandemic has only worsened Canada’s overdose crisis, yet the government Canadians elected has failed to properly acknowledge this devastating situation.

Sadly, substance use and addiction is rapidly rising, and Canada’s Federal Government must swiftly implement a new drug-related system in order to get ahead of the crisis.

Fortunately, there is another option.

Canada’s Current Policies

Punishment is Canada’s current policy strategy to prevent illegal drug use, through the criminalization of drugs. Public Safety Canada works with various partners to combat the import, production and distribution of illegal substances. The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) defines offences and punishments pertaining to the possession, acquisition and trafficking of drugs and substances.

But this act is outdated. 

Canada’s Present Problem

In Ontario, every 10 hours, an opioid related death occurs, and approximately 21 opioid related deaths occur per day across Canada. And yet, surprisingly, Canada’s current drug policies remain the same. Current drug policies have several problems, including a lack of citizens seeking treatment due to the stigmatization of drug use or being labelled as criminals, and an overloading of the Criminal Justice System (CJS) with a focus on punishment rather than treatment.

The CDSA is dismally failing citizens; individuals are not receiving necessary therapy or treatments, resulting in the hopeless cycle of indefinite drug use. 

Alternative to Criminal Penalties 

Canada must develop policies to fight crime, not illness, but what can be done?

The decriminalization of personal illegal drug use and possession occurs when criminal penalties for specific drug law violations are removed. This change excludes the illegal production and distribution of drugs. The decriminalization of personal drug use has already been successfully implemented in over two dozen countries with encouraging results. Clearly, Canada is falling behind. 

Through implementation, Canadians would be steered away from the CJS and directed towards treatment. As a result, Canadians would experience a number of constructive benefits. Drug use would finally be addressed as a health problem, drug tax revenue would be distributed towards necessary education and treatment, and prisoner overflow within the CJS would be considerably reduced.

Successful Models to Follow


In 2001, Portugal implemented a decriminalization policy for personal drug possession and, as a result, deaths related to drug use decreased drastically, sitting persistently below the European Union average, and prisoners sentenced in relation to illegal drugs decreased from 40% to 15%.

Portugal’s model has been successful; the country focuses their resources on prevention, education and treatment. By pairing decriminalization with rehabilitation, drug use and the associated harms are greatly reduced.


In 1994, Switzerland passed drug policies focused on decriminalizing personal drug use and creating access to new supports and treatment options. As a result, drug overdose deaths decreased significantly, overall crime rates dropped and infection rates of HIV and Hepatitis C steadily declined.

Switzerland sensibly focused on these four pillars: harm reduction, treatment, prevention and repression. Their policies shifted to a focus on public health, which successfully decreased barriers to obtaining treatment.

Things to Keep in Mind

The decriminalization of personal drug use has potential consequences that need to be taken into consideration, which the government can counteract. 

Potential Consequences of Decriminalization

Decriminalization can make illegal drugs less expensive, more accessible, and more widely accepted by society. In addition, the resources and services currently in place as drug treatments are not extensive enough to handle a large influx of new addicts and more experimentation may occur if individuals do not fear legal sanctions.

What can the Government do?

While an increase in the supply of drugs and decrease in the price of drugs may occur on the illegal drug market, the government can utilize the freed up CJS resources to target those producing and distributing illegal drugs. The government must implement a policy that expands existing treatment programs to account for an influx of new patients. Finally, by decriminalizing personal drug use the government will ensure that the drugs Canadians are experimenting with are not contaminated through government inspection and monitoring. 

Drugs are not going to disappear so the government needs to focus on what it can do to reduce their harm on individuals and society.