Closing the gap between Albertans

Written by Irfan Sabir, MLA for Calgary-McCall.

The constituency I represent in Calgary is home to people of many origins, and is one of the most ethnically diverse ridings in the province. It is home to people from all over the world who, like me, came to Canada with a dream of a better life, good education for their children and the opportunity to reach their potential. Like many new Canadians, when I came here I had to restart my career and my life from the beginning. I came with a Master’s in Economics, but had to work for years in minimum-wage jobs to make ends meet. 

I know that there are many people who come to Canada who must do the same thing, and I know that many people in my constituency are working for minimum wage now. I know this because I have talked to many of them. The available data backs this up, and shows that the average household income in my riding is lower than in other Calgary constituencies. 

We have to remember that over 100,000 parents in Alberta work to support their families on minimum wage.

That’s why I am firmly behind the drive to increase the minimum wage in Alberta to $15 an hour. Increasing it will make such a big difference for so many hard-working Albertans, people whose families depend on minimum wage, and it is vital that we give these families a chance to make a decent return for the work that they do. When I came to Canada, I could never have restarted my career and gotten higher education without the support of my family. We have to remember that over 100,000 parents in Alberta work to support their families on minimum wage. We must give them a chance to help their children reach their potential, and the best way to do that is to let them work with dignity in their jobs and take home enough money to feed, clothe and educate their families. 

A Statistics Canada survey for 2012 showed that Alberta as a whole had more income inequality than any other province in Canada. This is not a distinction that I think anybody in Alberta should be proud of. Instead we should be proud of everyone who works hard to support their families and to make Alberta the great province that it is today. Minimum wage earners come from many different backgrounds - people who were born here, people who moved here from elsewhere in Canada or people who came from elsewhere in the world. We should give each other a hand up, and close the gap between us so that everyone can work with dignity. Let’s work together.