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Alberta low-income earners can benefit from more than a minimum wage hike: experts

Click to play video 'Calgary experts discuss if a $15 minimum wage will hurt or help Alberta' Calgary experts discuss if a $15 minimum wage will hurt or help Alberta
Amber Ruddy from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and Trevor Tombe, an economics professor at the University of Calgary, joins Global News Calgary to discuss an upcoming hike to Alberta's minimum wage.

A minimum wage increase isn’t the only way Alberta’s government can help low-wage workers advance economically, according to a Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) representative and a Calgary-based economics professor.

The province’s minimum wage is set to rise from $13.60 to $15.00 an hour at the start of October. It will be the third increase in as many years.

READ MORE: Alberta minimum wage set to increase Sunday, becoming highest in Canada

Trevor Tombe, however, a University of Calgary economics professor, said there are other provincial policies that could be expanded in an effort to “increase incomes among those who need it.” Tombe said one example is the Alberta Child Benefit, which aims to support lower incomes families with children under the age of 18.

“You could imagine expanding policies like that, that allow you target support rather than a minimum wage increase, which is a pretty broad brush,” Tombe said Sunday during a discussion on Global News Morning.

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LISTEN BELOW: Amber Ruddy with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business speaks with 630 CHED’s Ryan Jespersen

He added that a minimum wage increase “covers groups and individuals that you might not think of as warranting government income support,” like teenagers or people who live at home with their parents.

The province could also provide more training opportunities for young people and reduce taxes, according to Amber Ruddy, the CFIB’s director of provincial affairs in Alberta.

“As your paycheque goes up, so do the [employment insurance], the [Canadian Pension Plan], the income taxes that come off of your paycheque,” Ruddy said on Global News morning.
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“That would keep dollars in low income earner’s pockets up front.”

LISTEN BELOW: Labour Minister Christina Gray speaks with 630 CHED’s Ryan Jespersen

This week, the CFIB released a report stating that 55 per cent of businesses polled expect to reduce or eliminate plans to hire young workers due to the wage increase. The study is made up of 1,040 responses from small and medium-sized business owners in Alberta, according to the group.

READ MORE: NDP will ‘move forward’ on $15 minimum wage plans

“A hike in minimum wage hits business owners in the pocket books,” Ruddy said.

Tombe, however, argued it’s hard to pin the loss of employment for young adults and teenagers in Alberta on the minimum wage alone. He said there’s been an equal amount of reduction of employment for young people in Saskatchewan as well, where the minimum wage will be almost four dollars lower than Alberta in October.

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“The recession has been a difficult time on that group of workers,” Tombe said.

“There’s not any strong evidence at the moment that employment has fallen in Alberta due to the minimum wage increase.”

The plan to raise Alberta’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018 was an election promise from the NDP.  The province’s minimum wage was $10.20 an hour when the party came into government in 2015.