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Minister Kenney has a choice to make – either expand and modernise the living wage legislation introduced two years ago or raise it to the momentous higher level of $15.20 per hour.
The new $15+ version of the minimum wage would assure minimum wage earners support and dignity, and also a measure of control over their own lives. It would draw a line in the sand, and ensure workers getting an average $8.45 per hour per hour knew they were not in the cold.
This was evidenced by the grumbling we all heard as a government’s proposed increase – to $15.40 per hour – was confirmed.
Adding insult to injury, the NDP government’s “yet higher” minimum wage (whose introduction is opposed by the Trudeau Liberal government) was introduced following a one-year implementation delay so employers had more time to prepare.
Unions and their supporters should be absolutely pleased with a government that stands for justice. The Progressive Conservative government is part of the problem.
Alberta is a relatively well-off province, with a net foreign wealth transfer from Ottawa to the province, to the tune of $24 billion. We have benefited from low taxes, strong resource and agriculture sectors and sound fiscal management.
Economists from business and university houses have said the government’s fiscal plan is solid and will be financially solid. The Economic Stimulus Act of 2016 brought in tax increases and a flood of new mandatory legislation that took effect in early 2018.
It was welcomed by business operators, educators and public school teachers. By contrast, despite a lot of public pre-announcement announcements of significant property taxes hikes, school boards still announced they were going to stick to 3 per cent increases.
Like a parent of a kid heading off to university, I know I have to pre-accept reality and save money for the education my son will probably not attend at the present tuition level. I recognize the need to give students access to a public education, no matter their zip code or financial situation.
However, I know I need to give my child a lifetime of something – something better – than someone who gets an unemployment benefit of maybe $15,000 a year for a whole 20 years.
Canada’s federal budget is right in line with the need for personal responsibility. There are rumours that Canada’s now 12.2 per cent unemployment rate is actually 15 per cent if those who are considered to be actively looking for work are included.
The Labour Force Survey Canada estimates that 40 per cent of Canadians are working part-time, only wanting the full-time job. Statistics Canada also says that two million Canadians are either classed as labour market inactive, or not looking for work.
British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta, who have implemented a wage floor of $15 per hour, have all been as affected as the national economy in building up private sector employment through stronger fiscal management, lower business taxes and action on climate change.
The Premier of Saskatchewan Moe told the Vancouver Sun this week: “Canada’s economic growth has dropped, one of the key reasons is a shortage of labour. As we know, labour shortages are expected to keep on increasing. If you look at federal employment reports, in the case of Saskatchewan, you see that the issue of workers’ shortages is getting worse, but also we can’t just pick out one province and complain, because there’s an issue on a national scale.”
Like a psychologist, new Premier Notley may find herself having to embrace minimum wage fairness for all workers in an era of heightened wage competitiveness and macro-economic uncertainty.
Although the premier may not, a few months from now, have to announce, “I told you so.”
– Bill Moore-Kilgannon is executive director of the Calgary-based think tank the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. He was a member of Calgary’s Economic Development Committee in 2010-11, and the Finance and Economic Development Committee in 2012-13. He is a past president of the Business Council of Alberta, and was a founding director of its regional lobbying arm, the Alberta Business Council.