An update from Lethbridge-East and thoughts on minimum wage

Written by Maria Fitzpatrick, MLA for Lethbridge-East. First published in the Lethbridge Herald on July 8, 2016.

This month I have a few things to talk about. First, as I have said many times, we are blessed with an incredible community. As the result of Trevor Stuart’s incredible work to bring awareness and an end to domestic violence, Lethbridge now has a footprint on Mount Everest. On behalf of the people of Lethbridge, thank you from the bottom of my heart Trevor!

Second, festival season has begun and Lethbridgians love to take part. This was evidenced over and over again by the huge number of participants in Pride week activities, the Dragon Boat Festival, the Latino Festival and the multitude of Canada Day activities. I enjoyed every moment! Kudos to the food trucks at all events. I’m sorry I couldn’t try everything. I must say that the Churros and Veggie Crepe I had at Canada Day were amazing. I will make an effort to try every vendor over the rest of the summer. Of course that will mean I have to walk an extra 5,000 steps to off-set those extra calories!

Third, I firmly believe that working families are the backbone of Alberta’s economy and that every hardworking Albertan deserves to earn enough to put a roof over their head and food on their family’s table. As the MLA for Lethbridge-East, I am committed to making sure that happens and proud to support our government’s commitment to raise Alberta’s minimum wage to $15/hour by 2018.

More money in workers’ pockets means increased spending power, which in turn stimulates the local economy.

Close to 300,000 working Albertans make less than $15 an hour. Over half of these people are one of the heads of their households, and more than a third have children. There are over 100,000 working parents in Alberta who are trying to support their families on less than $15 an hour. Further, over 60 percent - around 180,000 – of workers earning less than $15 per hour are women.

I have been part of the struggle for equal rights for women for over 40 years, whether that was fighting for non-traditional jobs or advocating for pay equity. I have been there, working two part-time jobs at minimum wage and sewing on the side to make sure I had the money to pay the rent and buy groceries for myself and my kids. I have seen many of my constituents in the same situation. This gradual increase to minimum wage is essential to help raise the working poor out of poverty.

More money in workers’ pockets means increased spending power, which in turn stimulates the local economy. It means fewer families will need to visit their local food bank or rely on other municipal, provincial and federal programs and supports to survive. Financial independence results in empowerment and dignity. An increased wage also tells workers “you are worth it.” Every worker in Alberta is contributing to our economy, and I value every one.

Our plan to move Alberta’s minimum wage closer to a living wage is a key part of our government’s plan to address poverty in our province. Along with investments in affordable housing, mental health and addictions treatment, and the Alberta Child Benefit, this increase in minimum wage will help ensure that Albertans have the resources they need to build better lives and contribute to their communities and local economies. That builds a better province for us all.