After British Columbia announced it will increase its minimum wage to keep up with inflation, many people started wondering if Alberta will follow suit.
B.C. is offering its lowest-paid workers a 25-cent hourly increase and is boosting minimum wage to $15.65 starting June 1.
The government said the move is tied to the rising cost of basic needs, and workers need an increase in pay to make up for inflation.
Workers in Alberta should not be expecting the same move.
When asked if a minimum wage increase would be considered by the UCP, Premier Jason Kenney said Tuesday that increasing employees’ pay would be too hard on businesses trying to recover from the pandemic.
“I think adding yet another increase on minimum wage would probably be the end of many of these small hospitality businesses that barley survived the pandemic,” said Kenney.
Public Interest Alberta said the premier’s comments are hard to hear.
The advocacy group has spent years researching minimum wage and believes that Albertans deserve an increase.
“At a time when we’re seeing a budget that has been balanced, it’s definitely time to start thinking about it,” said PIA executive director Bradley Lafortune.
“There are different levers the provincial government can use to ensure that Albertans’ wages are keeping up with the cost of living.”
With the cost of food, transportation and housing on the rise, Public Interest Alberta says Edmonton’s minimum wage should be $18.00 per hour. The province’s current minimum wage sits $3 below that, at $15 per hour.
The last time minimum wage workers in Alberta saw an increase was between 2016 to 2018, under the NDP government.
According to experts, raising the minimum wage has been proven to beneficial for both businesses and the local economy.
Heather Thomson is the executive director of the Alberta School of Business and said although the rising cost of employees’ pay can have an impact on businesses’ bottom lines, more money in the economy means more people are able to use that business.
Instead of mandating an increase in pay, the premier said a predicted labour shortage will force wages up.
That way of thinking has been criticized by Public Interest Alberta, which said it is an “overly simplistic” way of looking at supply and demand. Instead, the group is asking the government to make changes to minimum wage to provide workers in Alberta with a livable one.
“Workers should be able to pay for the basics,” said Lafortune. “They should be able to pay for a roof over their heads, the cost of gas, the cost of groceries and have a little bit for retirement.”
Compensation plays a major factor for employees when deciding where to work, but Thomson said providing a good work environment and flexible hours are also important in keeping employees happy.