by Morinville News Staff

The province will move closer to its goal of a $15 minimum wage this fall with a $1 increase Oct. 1 bringing the minimum wage to $12.20. A second increase of $1.40 will take place Oct. 1, 2017, bringing minimum wage to $13.60. Additionally, the current liquor server rate will be removed Oct. 1 of this year.

The government says the increases to the minimum wage will move nearly 300,000 hardworking Albertans closer to earning a living wage for their families and provide certainty to businesses.

“Albertans, who work full time, should be able to live with dignity, and that means being able to afford rent, food and transportation for their families. This plan for Alberta’s minimum wage provides long-term certainty to employers and workers,” said Christina Gray, Minister of Alberta Labour in a release Thursday.

Jan Reimer, Executive Director of the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters supported the government’s plan of phased increases to the minimum wage.

“Increasing the minimum wage in Alberta will improve the lives of women and children fleeing violence,” Reimer said. “Women make up the majority of Albertans supporting their families on minimum wage, and starting over often means accepting low-wage employment.”

Garner Beggs, co-owner of Edmonton’s Duchess Bake Shop also lent his support to the government’s announcement.

“At Duchess Bake Shop we believe strongly in paying a living wage to our employees. They work hard to help us build our vision, and it is incumbent upon us as employers to ensure that our people are paid enough to support their families, pay their mortgages and rents and feed themselves,” he said. “We have benefited greatly from paying higher than minimum wages through very high staff retention thereby saving on training, maintaining efficiencies and creating a workplace people want to be part of.”

But not everyone was singing the praises of a wage increase. The Wildrose say the NDP plan comes at a time when the provincial economy can least afford it.

The criticize Labour Minister Christina Gray for not releasing any economic analysis about the impact of the wage hike.

“Alberta just lost 44,000 full-time jobs in May. Combined with a series of other tax increases, this aggressive timeline comes at the wrong time as our economy continues to suffer,” Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said Thursday. “If the NDP stood on the side of working families, they would make sure their jobs would be protected. Without the government being upfront with Albertans about the full cost of this policy on our economy, they are taking a gamble with the livelihoods of businesses and the people they employ.”

Wildrose Shadow Jobs Minister Grant Hunter said it shows a government unwilling to listen and do all they can to protect jobs across the economy.

“We know the NDP are trying to help low-income Albertans, but unfortunately, their approach will only end up eliminating many needed jobs and exacerbate an already difficult jobs environment,” Hunter said. “It’s disappointing the NDP has consistently put ideology over doing what’s best for working families across the province.”

The province says 78 per cent of Alberta’s more than 300,000 minimum wage earners are permanent employees, 62 per cent are women, and 38 per cent are families with children.

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