Tags: Building Strong Communities , Investing in Alberta’s Future , Supporting Families

Posted on Apr 30, 2016

$15 minimum wage gives dignity to working Albertans

Written by Christina Gray, MLA for Edmonton-Mill Woods. First published in Calgary Herald on April 30, 2016.

No one who works a full-time job in Alberta should have to go to a food bank to feed themselves and their families.

However, many of the roughly 300,000 Albertans who earn less than $15 per hour are forced to do just that, denying them the economic security that their employment should provide, and the basic human dignity that many of us take for granted.

Last October, our government raised Alberta’s minimum wage to $11.20 per hour as part of an election commitment to phase in a $15 per hour minimum wage during this mandate.

Research tells us who the people working for less than $15 an hour are. We know that around 55 per cent of those 300,000 people are one of the heads of their household and that their families count on that income to make ends meet.

We know that over 60 per cent of those 300,000 people are women. And we know that over 35 per cent of those 300,000 people have children. That means over 100,000 working parents, who are trying to raise children on an extremely fixed budget.

Working families are the backbone of this province’s economy, and we must ensure that the minimum wage is set to a level that benefits our communities the most. Families that see their wage increase will have more money to spend on meeting their basic needs, such as housing, clothing and groceries. That increased spending power will, in turn, help to stimulate our local economy.

Working families are the backbone of this province’s economy, and we must ensure that the minimum wage is set to a level that benefits our communities the most.

Alberta is not alone in its pursuit. Governments across North America are looking to make meaningful enhancements to minimum wage so people can earn enough money to look after themselves and their families. The state of California and the City of Seattle are two examples of other major jurisdictions moving forward with plans to phase in a $15 per hour minimum wage.

We know the economic downturn has hit Alberta employers hard, and they also need help. That’s why, as a first step, we will lower the small business tax rate from three to two per cent in 2017. That’s a reduction of 33 per cent. We have also implemented new tax credits, provided more access to capital, increased funding to job grants and brought back the Summer Temporary Employment Program to assist employers with hiring summer students.

Alberta has very favourable tax rates, the highest productivity rate, and a skilled, educated, and ambitious workforce. It’s the best place to start a business and the best place to work. This will continue to be the case under our government.

In the coming weeks, you will be hearing more from me about the plan going forward and how we will be engaging with all Albertans on the best way to reach a $15 per hour minimum wage.

Our government will consult with employers, business and industry, as well as advocacy organizations, low-income earners, organized labour and the public interest community to gain a wide range of perspectives as we continue to monitor business confidence and overall economic conditions.

We have not yet announced any further minimum wage increases, but as we move towards a $15 minimum wage, rest assured that we will listen to all Albertans and we will get it right.