Former Alberta Finance Minister Jim Dinning, recently appointed as chair of the panel pushing Premier Danielle Smith’s Alberta pension plan project, on the day his appointment was announced, a grinning Ms. Smith behind him (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

Michel Leduc, the Canada Pension Plan’s head of public affairs and communications, recently demonstrated how to swiftly and skilfully eviscerate a goat, metaphorically speaking.

Canada Pension Plan public affairs and communications chief Michel Leduc (Photo: Linked-In).

I speak of Mr. Leduc’s Oct. 17 letter to Jim Dinning, the old Tory goat chosen by the United Conservative Party government to lend a shred of respectability to the plan by Premier Danielle Smith and her advisors to hijack our Canada Pension Plan and use the nest egg keep the province’s declining fossil fuel industry afloat for a few more years. 

The arrival in quick succession last week of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s open letter about the Smith Government’s scheme to force Alberta pensioners out of the Canada Pension Plan, Premier Smith’s response, and federal Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre’s lame contribution to the debate, pushed Mr. Leduc’s open letter and its supporting materials out of the limelight. 

This is a pity, because the letter really is a work of art – effectively summing up in understandable terms the problems with the snake oil sales pitch the former Progressive Conservative finance minister has been hired to peddle and, in a situation where many of us feel the urgent need to scream at the perpetrators of this would-be heist of our retirement security, did it with civility and grace. 

Mr. Leduc begins by congratulating Mr. Dinning, 71, for his appointment as Ms. Smith’s chief spokesthingy for the UCP’s pension purloining project. “Your extensive experience in matters of public finance, including the role you played as Alberta’s Treasurer when you helped reform and secure the Canada Pension Plan for generations, uniquely qualify you for this task,” he continued, not without a trace of subtle humour. 

CPP Investments, as the national pension plan’s investment board is known, just wanted respectfully to flag Mr. Dinning about “some troubling elements that in our view undermine the transparency, fairness, and integrity of the consultation that has been put forward to the public so far,” he explained. 

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Photo: Justin Trudeau/Flickr).

Well, yeah. There is that. Most of us at this point launch into a jeremiad larded with terms such as “fraudulent,” “dishonest,” “disgraceful,” and so on. All of this is true enough, but probably not likely to have much impact on seasoned liars with your money in their sights, or the UCP’s easily distracted base. 

That is where Mr. Leduc’s diplomatic evisceration of the UCP’s propaganda effort begins. 

It’s tempting, at this point, just to quote the rest of the letter verbatim, because it is so effective at deconstructing the shallow deception that underlies the UCP’s pension campaign. Nevertheless, I really urge readers to click on the link and read Mr. Leduc’s letter in its entirety. 

It’s obvious on its face, of course, that the invitation from Mr. Dinning and his two hand-picked panelists to let Albertans to “have your say” is intentionally misleading, or, as Mr. Leduc more politely understated it, “fails to meet key principles of effective and meaningful consultation with the public.” 

Nevertheless, it’s nice to see that in the context of a response by someone who had the capacity and means to hire a consultant to dismantle the Dinning Panel’s worst consultation practices and put them on display in a handy-dandy chart. (This is summarized on page 8 of the APP Consultation Assessment by Innovative Research Group Inc. of Vancouver, which was kindly forwarded to Mr. Dinning with along with Mr. Leduc’s letter.)

Alberta Finance Minister Nate Horner (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

It shows, among other things, that the panel’s model for an Alberta pension plan was already determined by Finance Minister Nate Horner before he engaged in public consultation – although there was some subsequent waffling and flip-flopping before Mr. Horner got back to the where he started.

In addition, the Innovative Research Group report illustrates how the consultation tool fails to provide balanced information about the UCP’s Alberta pension scheme, and also fails to measure what Albertans really think about the idea. (Not much, by the sound of the single public poll on the topic – although the goal of the government’s publicly funded propaganda effort, obviously, is to change that.) 

“Not only does the APP Public Engagement Panel’s consultation not meet commonly recognized principles of effective and meaningful consultation, but it does not adequately meet its own commitment to provide Albertans with information about a potential APP and gauge Albertans’ thoughts on the APP,” the report says.

So, to run down the list of failures summarized in the chart, the work of Mr. Dinning’s panel is not transparent, does not provide access to the information Albertans need to draw a conclusion, fails to discuss the rationale for the proposal, is biased in favour of the government’s scheme, tries to set the agenda for participants, and any conclusion it draws is not likely to be representative of what the broader population thinks. 

In other words, it’s an effort to pull the wool over our eyes. 

For a mark, Innovative Research Group gives the panel an “X” for each failure – although, it seems to me that a big fat “F” for Failure would be more appropriate. 

As for the government’s advertising, as Mr. Leduc notes in his letter, it is “undisguised in its bias toward the APP” – “to ask people their views informed solely by this one-sided presentation is, we hope you would agree, incompatible with an honest and open survey of public attitudes we hope you will undertake.” 

In a subsequent interview with the Globe and Mail, published last Friday, Mr. Dinning tried to wash his hands of the UCP Government’s propaganda. Well, he can say it ain’t so, but as reporter Kelly Cryderman observed, “it’s hard to see Mr. Dinning’s panel as near neutral when it’s been created by a United Conservative Party that has long been pushing for a separate Alberta pension plan.”

Mr. Leduc’s letter, in which the CPP Investment Board official sought an opportunity to present the panel with a submission to highlight the benefits of the CPP to Albertans, wrapped up with a warning that leaving it will be an irreversible decision.

“We have every confidence in your willingness and ability to shape this debate such that the principles of effective and meaningful consultation are respected,” Mr. Leduc concluded hopefully. “We look forward to the opportunity to make our submission to you.” 

My advice, of course, would be, “Don’t hold your breath.”

Join the Conversation


  1. i have paid into the cpp since i started work in 1969 and usually the maximum,and although i cringed when paying as a self employed farmer i never woke up worrying that i needed a better plan untill now i worry about my future retirement with Danielle smith,Nate horner and Jim dinning involved who never paid a cent into my plan

  2. The provincial pension plan the UCP is pushing with perseverance is obviously so flawed, and in so many ways. Yet, the UCP is relentless in forcing it through. They don’t care how they go about it, but the UCP wants to have it. There are clear biases, and very significant costs, with the ad campaigns, which bombard radio, TV, and social media platforms, and a survey that misses the basic question of whether Albertans want the provincial pension plan, or not. There is also a reluctance by Danielle Smith to answer questions about it. She evades the media, when they ask her about the matter, and sideswipes the issue. Even when the issue is brought up by callers to her radio show, she refuses to give them a clear answer, and sidesteps. The UCP also doesn’t want town hall meetings to discuss the provincial pension plan with Albertans. They can’t face the legitimate scrutiny that would happen. AIMCo is not trustworthy, because their record for handling pension money, and other savings, notably the Heritage Savings Trust Fund, is abysmal. $4 billion of pension money vanished. The Heritage Savings Trust Fund lost money twice, with a total loss of over $2 billion. Reports that go back to 2019, have indicated that the provincial pension plan for Alberta is a very bad idea, but the UCP chooses to ignore those findings, which were intentionally delayed. Others with a clear agenda, and who are connected with the UCP, such as Jack Mintz, try to twist things, with figures and numbers that are grossly inaccurate. The unwise, take what he says as the gospel truth. Nonpartisan economic scholars, who have plenty of experience in these matters, would say otherwise, and know that a provincial pension plan for Alberta is not a right way to go. Albertans were given enough warnings of what antics the UCP were up to, buy alas, they did not listen. Plenty of problems are piling up, and people in this province are going to have to be prepared to part with their CPP. Anyone who cast their ballot for the UCP, has only themselves to blame.

  3. I am not the first to point out that this brainwashing advertising campaign by the UCP is similar to the Brexit campaign in Britain. Surely many people there have learned the error of their ways, but it’s too late to turn back now. What’s done is done. No more living abroad full time while using the health services of any EU member country. Didn’t think that through, did they?

    I can’t imagine any young worker wanting to waste years contributing to an APP, likely without an employer contribution, when they could go to any other province and have all the advantages of the CPP. Who needs workers, anyways? Certainly not Alberta, where the economy of the future will, in fact, be driven entirely by “unicorn farts”, to quote a forgettable ex-premier.

  4. The flaws with Alberta’s pension plan have been discussed, are real and should continue to be discussed. However, the CPP response leads me to note another problem – the supposed consultation process itself.

    Part of trying to sell a flawed plan to a skeptical public is a flawed consultation process. It is clear to me the UCP chose the phone in process as it was easiest for them to control and manipulate. No in person town halls with the risk of some senior loudly saying that they did not want their pension stolen or hijacked. Add to this, a skewed survey where oddly keeping the CPP was not an option.

    Its fairly clear this is not about Albertan’s choosing, but a number of initiatives, now also including an add campaign, trying to shape or manipulate voters into supporting the predetermined choices the UCP and its panel have already made for whatever reasons.

    I suspect this is all just an exercise to spite Ottawa, try to stir up anger against the Federal government, which has at times worked politically for the UCP, energize or keep the support of the extreme part of the UCP base.

    So there probably are political reasons for what the UCP is trying to do, but a bad idea and a flawed process remain bad and flawed.

    1. Maybe we could just sever Northern Alberta and be part of Sakatchewan…makes as much sense.

    2. Many observers, both inside and outside Alberta, have postulated that the Smith government doesn’t really believe in this notion, that it’s merely a bargaining strategy aimed at gaining more leverage over Ottawa on a number of issues. If this were true, it would be reassuring. However, with all due respect to those observers, I don’t believe it for a moment.

      No, Daniellezebub is a true believer on this one. In fact, she’s been one for decades, and the only reason we didn’t hear much about it during the recent election is that her out-of-province campaign team, led by Conservative strategist Stephen Outhouse, put a sock in her mouth on the issue.

      Let’s also all take this time to note that the campaign strategist’s most sacred principle — “message discipline” — really means, “don’t ever, EVER, let the voters know what you really, truly believe on any issue”. It’s a particularly insidious form of false advertising, IMHO, as “low-information” voters — i.e. most of them — end up deceived by what the candidate says during the campaign, without any recall of what they had said leading up to it.

  5. Dinning used to have a modicum of gravitas. He has willingly allowed himself to be turned into, “Slippin’ Jimmy”, selling us a pig in a poke.

    As an aside, there was some nice alliteration slipped in there today.

  6. Danielle Smith wrote me this: “Please be assured that Alberta’s government will not move forward with a provincial pension plan unless Albertans agree. That’s why we have created an engagement panel to hear from people across the province on this issue.” I’m reading the ‘unless’ as ‘until’.

  7. It (the entire UCP political pension show) is merely representative of the more general failures of rigid partisan ideologues (and their narrow world view), their inability to admit failure, and their carefully packaged snake oil ‘truths’ , or as the song lyrics happen to state:

    “Poets, priests and politicians have words to thank for their positions.
    Words that scream for your submission and no one’s jamming their transmission. Because when their eloquence escapes you, their logic ties you up and rapes you.”

    For rigid partisan ideologues, long ago and far away events (always dismissively regarded as discursive) continue to remain just that (long ago, far away, and unrelated in any meaningful sense):

    Congressman Henry Waxman: “My question is simple. Were you wrong?”

    Greenspan: “Partially … I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interest of organisations, specifically banks, is such that they were best capable of protecting shareholders and equity in the firms … I discovered a flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works. I had been going for 40 years with considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well. The overall view I take of regulation is, I took an oath of office when I became Federal Reserve chairman. I’m here to uphold the laws of the land passed by Congress, not my own predilections.”

  8. So back in the spring, when Danielle said we aren’t going to talk about pensions, I thought she hadn’t finished her sentence …the ‘now’ was missing , and here we are. From the G&M article, the item about ‘Mr Dinning was approached by former minister Travis Toews earlier in the year about heading the pension panel.

    Well unless I am totally missing something, this has been in the works from* the get go with DS. The UCP put out a couple of feelers on the topic, found it a hot potato for the election, chopped it ,and are now trying to sell Albertans on 6 mth old potato salad….yuck !!!

    * I suppose that to be correct, it would to be from when SH came up with the idea to get rid of the pensions, the same way the corporations got rid of theirs, cuts into their profits….. famous last words ” but we have a responsibility to our shareholders “.

    Mr Leducs polite and reasonable letter (unlike the headlines about a letter storm) was needed, but isn’t getting traction with the TBA crowd because it was just that-polite and reasonable.

    Going by the comments in the G&M , it is amazing how many people don’t understand that paying into the “Canada Pension Plan” is NOT paying into an Alberta plan; that is why when you retire ,you can retire anywhere in CANADA and collect that pension. So for all the Albertans that enjoy the winters down south, would a APP allow you to do that ??

    and for all the people who keep repeating the lie that Albertans are over paying, IT IS NOT POSSIBLE, check your tax return form or ask whomever does your taxes.!!!!

    Which brings me to the question of the pensions of the MP’s… since PP has qualified for a full pension at 55 (?) as an Albertan living in Ontario, along with all the other MPs , according to the UCP conclusion of the Lifeworks report, that would mean all their contributions were to Ontario, right?

    IMHO, it seems that Mr Dinning has become another victim of the Con-smear ,just as David Johnson was. Use the name and reputation, then discard when done. I feel sorry for both of them.

      1. pOgO…
        I will still give him the benefit of the doubt, for the time being. We don’t know what the -deal- was ,that was put forward ‘earlier this year ‘ by Travis Toews, who was still a minister at the time. IMHO , they wanted to bring in someone with a ‘stirling reputation ‘, and more importantly a “Progressive Conservative ” to appeal to a specific demographic. Going by Jim’s reaction to the letter from the CPPIC (?) and his comments in the Herald after the “town hall ” , I got the impression he was surprised by the reaction. So, unlike an imperson townhall, a call in one is much easier to control the script**, filter the callers, and ‘pie in the sky’ the numbers….**as per the radio talk show host. If they do hold the.. proposed.. in person ones in Edmonton and Calgary in November and December ,they would have to hold them at the Saddledome and the PorkChop ,to hold the people who would want to weigh in. Unless of course they’re snowed it…what are the chances ?? and it’s not like people have anything else to do in December!

        I’m surprised by the 14,000 calls in 1 1/2 hrs and 450 wrote in comments.
        Imprecise numbers? meh !!
        To dream, ….ala Frankie…

  9. Dinning gets an F for his involvement in this whole APP scam.
    I’d give the same to Horner too, but he is so dim-witted that it is likely wasted on him. Horner, who has no accounting credentials, is nothing more than a talking head for DS and was appointed Minister of Finance by benefit of his surname, and as a “Yes man” by Dani & her ghouls in TBA.

  10. A post on another site points out another flaw in the survey: he was able to respond on his computer, iPad and phone, all from the same household account! That might just skew the results don’t ya think?

    1. Lefty: This is also a good point. No need to use all those devices, there is no way to prevent multiple filing by using different browsers or simply by deleting the cookies on the browser you are using. I have no doubt that TBA cadres are doing exactly this to generate fake “public opinion” results that can be touted by Ms. Smith and her strategic team. DJC

      1. Everywhere something is saving your data, when you interact with the internet. There are some people who now scrape that data via AI in order to make your life more pleasant. Please relax. It will be all over soon.

    2. Hi,
      In fact, people are able to do “survey” from anywhere in Canada as long as they put in at least some partial Alberta postal code address.

      By extension, does this now mean that people in other countries may also be able to do the “survey” ? If yes, my fear is that the already slanted “survey” could be easily manipated by a large, paid special interest group. On either side.

      Are the phone-in town hall callers first curated? Who knows, but I don’t trust the process because it lacks transparency and definitely should employ a neutral proctor.

      To sum it up, this is simply open to so much possible abuse that even it’s original pro-bias pales in comparison to the possibilities of paid or politically influenced manipulation.

      1. Mr/ Anderson: Very good questions. I imagine anyone in the world can fill out the form. I’m sure teams of respondents in St. Petersburg are offering their thoughts on an APP right now. DJC

    1. Um I believe I heard DS herself say it would take 2 billion to set up. Scarey thought letting Alberta control what is the rest of our lives. How much have we paid so far?, even as Edmonton works on the housing shortage. Ahs does not even cover my prescriptions..oops they cover one…the one that puts me to sleep!

  11. Should Mr. Peepers tragically become Prime Minister it would not be possible without a slew of MPs from Ontario. Combined with additional members from B.C. and the Maritimes those Tories would revolt at the thought of Alberta absconding with over half the assets of the Canada Pension Plan, I think.

  12. Dont you just love how there’s absolutely no % figure given that must be reached to consider it a ‘majority’?
    What will Danielle’s ‘majority’ number be? 51% in favour? in that case i can guarantee you we’ll see something akin to January 6th happening in our capital city!
    will it be 60%? even then, that’s not convincing on such a major issue.
    Do we have to require say 70% for it to be a convincing level of opinion to go forward knowing that the No voters can’t mount any serious protest?
    the 1995 Quebec Sovereignty referendum was 50.5% NO, so nothing changed.
    What if it was the opposite? can such a razor-thin result really be considered ‘enough’ for such an important topic? Half the population would be grinding their teeth for the rest of their lives as they live with the consequences they did NOT vote for!!!!! is that fair?
    To me, this is JUST AS important an issue to resolve as DS’s proposal for an APP!

  13. Why doesn’t the party of Individual Freedom just put a check box on the next tax return forms where individuals can choose to opt into an APP or not? If it’s so great there’s no need to pilfer the CPP from other Canadians.

    1. Great idea! Leave it up to individual choice. Freedom! Canadians can vote to pay taxes through the Canada Revenue Agency and take the Canada Pension Plan. Albertans can vote to pay the Alberta Pirate Chest and take their pieces of eight. Danielle and her lions can fight it out for an APP with the bits tossed their way by those who want an Alberta Revenue Agency.

  14. I fear the voices of reason will be lost, if not already lost, to the propaganda and advertising campaign of the UCP spin doctors. Mostly though, because it has been pitted as us vs. Trudeau/east, I fear the APP will be an automatic shoe-in. That’s how it goes in AB; I hear it every day where I live. People have no problem cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

  15. The CPP belongs to all Canadians as individual members. If DS wants an APP then Albertans’ CPP contributions are frozen where they stand and a new plan needs to be set up to start from scratch.

  16. There’s no way the UCP will hold a fair referendum on this issue. For proof just look at the ad campaign which is rife with falsehoods and misinformation. This is a cash grab by the oil & gas industry, because many world-wide pension plans are divesting from fossil fuels. Major banks are also refusing to loan out money. Smith cannot be trusted. UCP supporters are truly the stupidest voters in Canada.

  17. Jim Dinning, wasn’t he the architect of the Klein Governments 1990’s “royalty holiday” that oversaw the theft of over $1,000,000,000 from the province of Alberta? Yup, seems trustworthy enough.

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