Guest column: The NDP approach to minimum wage is bad for business

by Grant Hunter, Wildrose MLA for Cardston – Taber – Warner
and the Wildrose Shadow Minister for Jobs, Skills, Training, Labour and Red Tape Reeducation

The Wildrose Official Opposition has been a strong, positive and moderate voice for Alberta businesses in the legislature, while the NDP has remained ideologically stuck on making a dramatic 50 per cent increase to minimum wage across Alberta.

The NDP members have their hearts in the right places, but they have failed to properly study the unintended consequences of a change like this.

Independent analysis from across Canada shows this type of dramatic increase will hurt jobs, growth and economic prosperity, and force small business owners to raise prices, restrict growth and reduce staff levels.

And while there’s no doubt several big companies could absorb this type of increase, for many small businesses it will put the employment of hardworking Albertans and families at risk.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business recently estimated this policy could lead to 50,000 to 183,000 jobs lost or not created in Alberta, as well as a 14 to 28 per cent drop in youth employment.

Wildrose MLAs have been working with small businesses in local communities across Alberta to find out how this change will affect them and we’ve been bringing those concerns to the legislature.

During the last session, we proposed a bill amendment to lower the small business tax rate from three per cent to two per cent.

Alberta currently has the highest small business tax rate in western Canada, and we felt this was an agreeable proposal that would have helped Alberta businesses weather this policy change. But while we thought the NDP would put ideology aside and work with us to protect small business, our amendment was defeated.

It is clear to us now it is the official policy of this NDP government to never lower taxes on families or businesses, or consult on the impacts of their decisions ahead of time.

This ideological policy shift is a body-blow to Alberta’s long-term prosperity.

Youth and seniors’ employment will be especially hard hit as businesses downsize and are forced to replace good, full-time jobs with temporary, part-time ones.

Similar types of minimum wage increases are being implemented in several districts across the United States right now, and the impacts have been devastating to small business ecosystems in cities like San Francisco where shoppers are often surprised to learn their favourite local stores are shutting down because of this misguided policy.

If the NDP had done proper consultations or economic impact assessments, they would have a stronger case to do what they’re doing, but this hasn’t been done. The truth is they’ve done virtually zero economic analysis on what a 50 per cent increase to the provincial minimum wage would mean for our local economies, small businesspeople or workers.

Jobs Minister Lori Sigurdson claims she will consult with business owners on a go-forward basis as she phases in her $15 minimum wage legacy, but my question to her would be what for, if indeed she’s dead-set on bringing in the $15 wage figure.

The concerns of hardworking Albertans have and will continue to fall on deaf ears, yet they’ll be the ones facing the consequences of this change.

We need a more moderate approach that works alongside our job creators and protects employment for youth and our most vulnerable instead of taking steps to hurt growth.

Small business is the lifeblood of our communities. Whether someone’s starting a first job or opening a first business, Albertans deserve to know their government has the best interest of the province at heart.

This policy is simply bad for Albertans, bad for business and bad for Alberta.

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