A recent announcement that the province’s minimum wage will be $15 in two years has the official opposition worried about the hit to the regional economy.
Lacombe-Ponoka Wildrose MLA Ron Orr responded to the Alberta NDP government’s approval — on Sept. 8 of regulations that formalized the three annual increases that will push the minimum wage up by October, 2018 — by wondering why other options weren’t first looked at by the provincial cabinet and the Ministry of Labour.
Orr stated in an email that he’s heard from local business owners why there is a need to rush when the economy is struggling.
“I’ve heard directly from small business owners in the constituency how challenging it is today to just keep their doors open and (this) announcement will not help,” Orr commented.
“(Those) involved in industries such as agriculture often depend on part time or seasonal workers. Many part-time workers are seniors who welcome the opportunity to get out and do something extra during the week.”
He added that agricultural producers and those that serve farmers would be hard pressed to raise their prices and continue operating normally, in spite of the higher costs associated with larger wages.
Orr was also aghast about how the decision will affect his constituents.
“Because it is hard for minimum wage earners to survive, I am disappointed that instead of exploring more effective ways to support low income families,” he said.
“The NDP has doubled down on an economic experiment that will put thousands of jobs at risk and hurt the livelihoods of small business owners in Ponoka.”
Orr added that the government has so far refused to release any detailed economic analysis on the potential consequences of such a rapid increase.
“We have been asking the NDP to hold off until they do an economic impact analysis. Once in government, we will do that analysis and then decide how best to get Albertans back to work,” he stated.
However, the NDP government — through the labour ministry — countered by explaining they have detailed research on the subject (available on the alberta.ca website), all of which shows they are heading in the right direction.
“All hardworking Albertans deserve to make enough to support themselves and their families. Right now, too many people are going to work every day and still not able to make ends meet,” explained Christina Gray, Minister of Labour, in an email statement.
“We know the economic downturn has hit Alberta employers hard, and they also need help. That’s why, as a first step, we will reduce the small business tax rate by 33 per cent in 2017. We have also implemented two new tax credits worth $165 million, provided more access to capital, increased funding to job grants and invested more than $34 billion in infrastructure over the next five years.”
Gray added that by ensuring there is a higher level wage, communities and families will both benefit.
“(Families now) will have more money to spend on meeting their basic needs such as housing, clothing and groceries (and) that increased spending power will, in turn, help to stimulate our local economy,” she said.
“We know these increases will significantly help the nearly 300,000 people in Alberta today who earn less than fifteen dollars per hour. These steps are being phased in responsibly, giving employers time to adjust and lower-income Albertans the help they need to provide for themselves and their families.”