A group representing Canadian retirees is urging federal and provincial governments to protect the Canada Pension Plan as Alberta considers an exodus from the national program.

In an open letter to federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers ahead of their Friday meeting in Toronto, the Canadian Association of Retired Persons said “protecting the value and integrity of our pensions” is top of mind.

It called on the government officials to “step up to protect the national pension plan.”

“Older Canadians across the country are deeply worried by the Government of Alberta’s plan to undermine the integrity of the CPP,” the letter from CARP executive Bill VanGorder said.

“Its proposal that contemplates walking off with more than half the CPP’s accumulated value to create a new provincial scheme is reckless.”

He added that the “retirement security of seniors, including those residing in Alberta, is in question” in light of the Prairie province’s proposal.

“If it were to play out as intended, it could have huge impacts on the rest of the country. Already the idea spreads anxiety and uncertainty among seniors who fear their life’s contributions are at risk.”

Alberta has been considering a plan to leave the national pension plan and instead create its own provincial pension plan, similar to Quebec and Saskatchewan.

A study funded by Alberta’s government found the province could be entitled to $334 billion if it were to leave the national plan, more than half of the plan’s assets. Experts and analysts have disputed the figure.

Last week, Alberta Premier Danielle Smith cut off debate in the provincial legislature to pass a bill mandating a referendum on its plan for the Canada Pension Plan.

Provinces are free to leave the plan, but must give three years’ notice.

Still, VanGorder questioned why any province would want to go it alone.

“Seniors in Canada are part of a national pension plan that has become the envy of the world,” the letter said. “It is well managed and supported by one of the best performing institutional investors globally.”

Alberta’s pension proposal is not specifically mentioned on the agenda for the finance ministers’ meetings, which are meant to “discuss shared priorities such as housing, affordability, and economic growth,” according to a release from the federal government.  

With files from The Canadian Press