A higher minimum wage has broad support.
By Jamie Kleinsteuber, MLA for Calgary-Northern Hills. First published in the Calgary Herald Sept. 18, 2016
Right now, thousands of Albertans go to work every day, but are still unable to make ends meet.
Alberta has the highest rate of food bank use among working people in the country. According to Food Banks Canada, nearly one in three people who use a food bank in the province work for a living. Our province has the dubious distinction of having both the highest and fastest growing rate of income inequality in the country.
Our government is working to address this by implementing a fair minimum wage, something neglected by past governments.
My constituency has a thriving business community. Talking to business owners in Calgary-Northern Hills, many of them say the minimum wage increase is fair. The cost of living is very high in Calgary, which is why many of them already pay their employees above $15 per hour.
Business owners also know that paying their workers more results in increased employee productivity and job satisfaction, as well as decreased employee turnover and training costs. Employers in Canada spend millions of dollars each year to replace workers who leave. Plus, workers with more money in their pocket will spend it locally, because after all, one business’ employee is another’s customer.
In speaking with Calgary Northern-Hills constituents, it is clear this is not just a young person’s or new workers’ issue. Of the 300,000 Albertans who earn less than $15 an hour, nearly two-thirds are women, and the majority of low-income wage earners are raising families.
A $15 per hour minimum wage will help low-wage earners cover their basic needs such as clothing, groceries and housing.
Our province has the dubious distinction of having both the highest and fastest growing rate of income inequality in the country.
After province-wide consultations, we have heard from Albertans about how to move forward to reach a $15 per hour minimum wage. One of the things we heard strongly from stakeholders was the desire for certainty, to know what is coming and when. We have recently announced a plan to incrementally increase the minimum wage. We are taking a phased-in approach, to give employers maximum certainty and predictability.
On Oct. 1, the minimum wage will rise by a dollar to $12.20 an hour. It will rise to $13.60 one year later. It will reach $15 on Oct. 1, 2018. Our government passed all three annual increases at once to ensure predictability, instead of making the decision year to year.
Alberta businesses now know when the three minimum wage increases go into effect.
Businesses in my constituency are already preparing for the increase. The minimum wage increase affects operations at Vivo, our constituency’s hub of culture and recreation. Vivo has already incorporated minimum wage increases into their budget plans.
It is wonderful to see businesses in Calgary-Northern Hills embrace our government’s move towards a living wage. Owners know it is the fair thing to do, and I am proud to represent such forward-thinking constituents.