Alberta splits opinion with minimum-wage increase

The significant hike in hourly pay will no doubt affect businesses – but to what degree? Well, it depends who you ask.

Alberta splits opinion with minimum-wage increase
Earlier this week, officials in Alberta announced a minimum-wage increase that will come into play on October 1 but the $1 hike hasn’t gone down well with everyone.

"I guess the best thing that you can say is that it wasn't two dollars," said Ken Kobly, president and CEO of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce (ACC).

"You probably will see a reduction in employment, particularly with students," he said, adding that members were already expressing their intention to raise prices “wherever they possibly can.”

A previous survey conducted by the ACC found that 70 per cent of businesses would either raise prices or cut staff if the minimum wage was raised.

It may, however, be a little premature to panic. The increase, which will take the current minimum wage up from $10.20 an hour to $11.20 an hour, only affects an estimated 39,000 workers – or 2.2 per cent of the provincial workforce.

Lori Sigurdson, Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour, said the changes were a big step towards tackling poverty and gender wage equality in Alberta.

“This is a balanced, reasonable approach that is manageable in today’s economic climate,” she said. “Most importantly this represents broad-minded social policy that will improve the quality of life for all Albertans.”

Public Interest Alberta spokesman Joel French agreed – “It’s a positive step forward for reducing poverty and is a crucial part of a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy, which we hope to see from the government in the near future,” he said.

If poverty reduction is the goal, argued Kobly, the government should consider changes to the Alberta family employment benefit so people who need help get it. 

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