Transition from minimum wage is coming
By Margaret McCuaig-Boyd, MLA for Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley. First published in the Fairview Post Wed. Sept. 28 2016
As hard-working Albertans move closer to a living wage, business will continue to be supported through the transition. The reason a minimum wage exists is to ensure that the workforce can not only afford the basics of life, such as food, affordable housing, clothing and transportation, but also save for little bumps along the way. According to statistics, although a $15 per hour is still below the living wage - it is a step in the right direction. Alberta has some of the highest costs of living, yet it has also traditionally had one of the lowest minimum wages in the country.
This inequity is not fair and Albertans are struggling because of it. Many of the businesses in Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley constituency who were surveyed have advised that they are already paying the $15.00 per hour because paying a living wage is what they have had to do to keep good staff. Businesses have also expressed that with the increase in minimum wage they expect their employees will have incentive to stick around longer - staff turnover being one of the most difficult challenges businesses in rural areas deal with. There are some who suggest that low-wage earners are just young Albertans earning pocket money. This is simply not true, nearly 40 per cent have children themselves. Businesses are being helped in adapting to these changes by giving them a clear and predictable phased-in plan of what is to come.
The general minimum wage will increase by $1.00 to $12.20 per hour on Oct. 1 with the liquor server minimum wage will being eliminated at this time. It will again increase by $1.40 in 2017 and by another $1.40 in 2018 to reach the goal of $15 per hour. In order to further assist business through this transition, as of January 1, 2017 a reduction in small business tax rates from three per cent to two per cent has been given. The Enhanced Innovation Voucher and Small/Medium Enterprises Support program has been introduced; the Summer Temporary Employment Program has been reinstated; and the Canada-Alberta Job Grant, a six-year initiative with the Government of Canada to support employers in building a strong workforce through better trained workers, has been implemented.
It is important to remember that raising the minimum wage for the lowest paid people in our province supports us all. Families take that money and put it right back into the local economy, buying food, clothes and other necessities from the local shops that support other people. It also means that low income families have to rely less on the social support systems that are funded through taxpayer dollars. We end up with healthier, more productive children that will in turn contribute to the economy.