Alberta’s phased minimum wage hike to start in October

Two loonies are pictured in North Vancouver, B.C. Monday, Jan. 26, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
The NDP is going ahead with plans to increase Alberta's minimum wage. THE CANADIAN PRESS / Jonathan Hayward

CALGARY – Alberta’s NDP has announced its planned minimum wage hike will start in phased increases on Oct. 1, 2015.

The Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour called the current formula for minimum wage increases—based on the consumer price index and average weekly earnings—inadequate.

“As such, our government will undertake targeted consultations with key stakeholders through the month of June to establish a new path forward,” said minister Lori Sigurdson in a statement. “These meetings will be held with industry associations representing employers who typically employ minimum wage workers, as well as labour and public interest advocacy organizations.”

Albertans will receive an update on the progress made in July, but Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Acting Press Secretary Barrie Harrison said Premier Rachel Notley made it clear her intent is to make sure a $15 minimum wage is reached by 2018.

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“That’s certainly the goal that remains,” said Harrison. “Consultation over the next month will be to determine how best to reach that goal.”

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Harrison said that could mean “stepped increases” over the next three years.

During the provincial election campaign, Notley vowed to raise Alberta’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018, a promise she addressed with reporters last Wednesday.

Alberta’s minimum wage is currently $10.20; tied with Saskatchewan as the lowest of all the provinces. (The Northwest Territories is slightly less at $10). The highest in Canada is $11 in both Nunavut and Ontario.

Alberta’s minimum wage is currently $10.20; tied with Saskatchewan as the lowest of all the provinces. Cody Coates / Global News

Calgary District and Labour Council spokesperson Alex Shevalier said in a previous interview that two per cent of Albertans currently make minimum wage, but that a hike will impact many more.

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“We’re talking about a small number of people, but what that will likely do is—for the people making slightly above the minimum wage in the 13-14 dollar an hour—it will also mean raises for all the people between minimum wage and 15,”  said Shevalier.

Critics say an increase in wages could lead to failed businesses if owners can no longer afford to pay staff, and Liberal Leader David Swann said the consultation should explore how small businesses will be affected by raising the minimum wage “so high, so quickly.”

“Alberta’s small businesses are struggling immensely in the current economic environment,” said Swann in a statement.

“Ensuring that these businesses are protected and able to weather these tough times needs to be a priority, and any new economic policies need to take their needs into account.”

READ MORE: Premier-designate Rachel Notley plans to keep Alberta as a ‘healthy place’ to invest

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