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Students gather to protest opposition party’s comments on minimum wage

WATCH ABOVE: Minimum wage took centre stage at the legislature on Saturday. Young people called to maintain the status quo. It comes ahead of an election in our province and proposals by some politicians to lower the minimum wage. Albert Delitala has the story.

Dozens of people gathered on the steps of the Alberta Legislature Saturday to protest possible changes to the minimum wage under a new government that could see what protesters call an “unfair wage distribution for Alberta’s youth.”

READ MORE: Kenney to look at possibly reducing minimum wage for youth, alcohol servers in Alberta

The protesters pointed to recent comments made by United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney in which he said if his party wins power, it would seriously consider reducing the minimum wage for youth and alcohol servers.

“It would mean that equal work would not equal equal pay,” said protest organizer Juliette Eshleman. “It would mean certain people would be discriminated against and minimum wage would be unequally distributed.”

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“I can’t stand for that. I think that’s morally wrong and I believe that workers in Alberta believe that too,” said fellow protester Leonard Zasiedko.

READ MORE: Higher restaurant prices not stopping Albertans from eating out

Jason Kenney made the comments in a speech to restaurant owners at an Edmonton event in February, put on by the industry advocacy group Restaurants Canada.

At the time, he said reducing wages for some workers would help struggling eateries keep their doors open while allowing them to hire more people.

He says servers have told him that they would rather have the extra hours, given they can make far more in tips — about $30 an hour or more.

“I always talk to the servers (when dining out). And every single one I’ve talked to in the past two-plus years across this province says they would rather have extra hours than an extra buck-fifty as a base wage,” Kenney said.

Watch below: (From Feb. 14, 2019) There’s push-back when it comes to talk of a rollback on Alberta’s minimum wage. Vinesh Pratap reports.

Businesses speak out against Kenney plan to possibly cut minimum wage for some Alberta workers
Businesses speak out against Kenney plan to possibly cut minimum wage for some Alberta workers

Restaurants Canada says a sluggish economy, regulatory changes and a high minimum wage brought in by the NDP government have erased the industry’s profit margins, which were already razor thin.

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Premier Rachel Notley’s government increased the minimum wage to $15 an hour across the board. Alcohol servers used to make a dollar an hour less than the minimum wage on the assumption they would get it back in tips. That disparity was eliminated under the NDP.

Kenney has not committed to putting a graduated minimum wage into his platform but has said the party doesn’t plan to raise minimum pay.

He said he sees a lot of merit in a graduated approach, given that different age ranges have different needs and the goal for everyone is a thriving industry with lots of jobs.

“A 15-year-old does not have the same income requirements as a single mom who is 25,” said Kenney.

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“How about we have a government that says it is going to be focused on getting these young people back to work through the industry most likely to hire them by allowing you to do so with a youth employment wage. I think that makes a lot of sense.”

READ MORE: Examining what the new minimum wage means for Albertans

Watch below: (From September 2018) Global News Morning Calgary’s Doug Vaessen talks about the minimum wage increase and what that means for workers, families and businesses across the province.

Alberta to increase minimum wage to $15 an hour Oct. 1.
Alberta to increase minimum wage to $15 an hour Oct. 1.
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Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel, in his speech to the restaurant owners, suggested his party would leave the $15 wage in place but would try to find other ways to help employers.

“I hope this energizes people to get out and vote and pick parties and politicians that will defend workers and stand with workers and not attack workers,” Zasiedko said.

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“I hope people will have a more conscious idea of who they’re voting for,” Eshleman said.

with files from the Canadian Press 

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