Calgary NDP MLA explains support for minimum wage hike

By Brian Malkinson, MLA for Calgary-Currie. First published in the Edmonton Sun, Sept. 22, 2016

Alberta is an amazing place.

It is a place of great beauty in our landscapes, and great warmth in our hearts.

When I came here from B.C. eight years ago, I didn’t do it for fun, I didn’t do it for a laugh, I did it because I had run out of options. I chose to leave my home out of desperation. So I packed my meagre belongings and headed to Alberta to make a life.

There certainly were jobs available in B.C., but at minimum wage, none would have been sufficient to clothe, feed and shelter myself.

At home I found myself in a position like thousands of others who have made their way to this province: looking for green pastures, looking for a way out of the poverty I had found myself in.

Alberta was - and continues to be - the place to go to rebuild your hope, rebuild your courage, and rebuild your life. This province was to be a welcoming place of opportunity for those willing to work hard; a place that Albertans could share in its prosperity.

So I moved to Alberta and worked my way up from the shop floor, building large industrial generators, to the office selling them.

However, I was fortunate. I was unattached, no kids, no mortgage, and motivated enough to be able to begin over.

There are thousands of Albertans who work hard and long hours but are still only barely getting by.

As a result of these improvements, employers will benefit from increased employee productivity and job satisfaction, as well as decreased turnover and training costs.

According to Public Interest Alberta‘s most recent data, 354,700 workers, nearly 19% of employed Albertans, earn $15 per hour or less; a stark gap between Calgary’s living wage calculation in 2015 of $18.50.

Over half of these people are one of the heads of their households, and more than a third have children. That means there are over 100,000 working parents in Alberta who are trying to support their families on less than $15 an hour.

We have a responsibility to ensure that working Albertans cannot only afford to live in this province and provide for their families, but also save for life’s little bumps in the road.

Many businesses have already taken steps to support their employees, providing them with a living wage and many more are taking the necessary steps to prepare for the thoughtfully measured wage increase.

By giving businesses a clear roadmap of the gradual, phased-in approach to $15 per hour (increases of $1, $1.40 and $1.40 will take effect on Oct. 1 of 2016, 2017 and 2018, respectively), our government is helping small businesses adapt to the changes that need to happen.

They are also helping businesses with the transition by introducing the Alberta Investor Tax Credit and the Capital Investment Tax Credit, which will provide $700 million in private sector investment and $300 million in equity investment. It will also stimulate the creation of 4,000 direct and indirect jobs.

As a result of these improvements, employers will benefit from increased employee productivity and job satisfaction, as well as decreased turnover and training costs.

To me, this province represented a beacon of hope; a place where people come because we are a place that supports one another, we are a place that is welcoming, and we are a place that is caring.

This is something I firmly believe still holds true.

These are long-term strategies that will support Albertans who are currently working but are still finding themselves stopping at the local food bank to support themselves and their families. I am a New Democrat, and I am an unequivocal supporter of $15/hr. minimum wage because I know the difference a hand up can make in someone’s life.