Tag Archives: Minimum Wage in Alberta

Episode 21: Jumpin’ Joe Anglin, UCP Interruptions Bozai, and the NDP’s $15/hour minimum wage

Joe Anglin’s return to Alberta politics, what happens when a white nationalist, anti-immigration group shows up to a United Conservative Party pub night, and what happens now that the New Democratic Party government has implemented its promised $15 per hour minimum wage, are a few of the topic Dave and Ryan discuss this week on the podcast.

We discuss the latest candidate nomination news, including questions about if recently-by-elected UCP MLA Laila Goodridge can win her party’s nomination in the new Fort McMurray-Lac La Biche district (the nomination meeting is being held three days before the return of the Legislative Assembly at the end of October) and how Anne McGrath‘s communist history will impact her chances as the NDP candidate in Calgary-Varsity.

And we dive deep into our mailbag to answer listener questions ranging from the upcoming Alberta Party annual general meeting to the 2018-2022 wild salmon policy.

We are also thrilled to announce Daveberta.ca is collaborating with ParityYeg to create and maintain an online dashboard that tracks nominated and nomination candidates ahead of Alberta’s 2019 election.

The Daveberta Podcast is a member of the Alberta Podcast Network powered by ATB Financial. The networks includes more than 30 Alberta-made podcasts, including the Otherwise Show.

You can listen and subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlayStitcher, or wherever you find podcasts online. We’d love to hear what you think of this episode, so feel free to leave a review where you download, comment on the blogFacebook or Twitter or send us an email at podcast@daveberta.caAnd we would really appreciate it if you could leave a review where you download this podcast and share this episode with a friend.

And thanks again to our producer, Adam Rozenhart, who keeps us on track and makes each episode of the Daveberta Podcast sound so great.

Thank you for listening!

Recommended reading:

Minister Christina Gray with Lynsae Moon, co-owner of the Nook Café.

253,900 Albertans got a raise this month

Labour Minister Christina Gray with Lynsae Moon, co-owner of the Nook Café. (Photo: Government of Alberta)

Alberta’s minimum wage jumped to $15 per hour on October 1, 2018, making our province the first in Canada to reach this mark. The New Democratic Party promised to raise the minimum wage as part of its platform in the 2015 election and quickly began a 3-year phased increase to the minimum wage shortly after Premier Rachel Notley formed her government.

Rachel Notley Alberta Premier NDP

Rachel Notley

The $15 minimum wage will make life more affordable for women, single parents, families and everyone who has been working a full-time job or more but is still struggling to put food on the table and pay their rent,” Labour Minister Christina Gray said in a September 28 press release.

According to the Alberta Low Wage Profile, the number of employees with average hourly earnings of less than $15 per hour in Alberta decreased from 292,400 in 2016 to 253,900 in 2018. The profile also shows that Alberta has the lowest percentage of low wage earners among the Canadian provinces, followed by Saskatchewan.

The phased-in increase to minimum wage is a challenge that business owners who pay poverty level wages had been forced to confront. And not surprisingly, business owners and their lobby groups have taken issue with the increases since they began after 2015.

Some business owners have warned that pay increases could lead to increased costs for consumers. There is no doubt that an increase to the minimum wage will increase costs for employers, but I am sure they have already found many Albertans will not mind paying a little bit more knowing that the employees who serve their coffee, prepare their lunches, or stock their grocery store shelves are paid better than they were last month.

The leaders of Alberta’s two main conservative parties, Jason Kenney of the United Conservative Party and Stephen Mandel of the Alberta Party, have floated the idea of a lower minimum wage for workers under the age of 18 or workers in the service industry.

Stephen Mandel Health Minister Alberta Edmonton Whitemud MLA

Stephen Mandel

Mandel went into detail with his proposal to lower the minimum wage for certain Alberta workers, lowering the rate to $13.60 an hour for workers 17 and under and to $14 an hour for servers who earn tips.

It makes little sense to penalize or devalue the work of the lowest paid workers in Alberta because of their age or the industry they work in. This kind of thinking presumes that most young workers are just earning pocket money to buy V-Bucks for Fortnite and not saving to pay for post-secondary education, helping pay the bills at home or trying to raise their own families.

Around 63 per cent of minimum wage earners are women, more than 37 per cent of minimum wage earners are parents, including around 14,300 who are single parents.

A pay cut for low wage workers could be part of Bill 1: The Free Enterprise Act, which Mandel announced at a gathering of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce earlier this month would be the first law passed by an Alberta Party government. He was mum on what else would be included in this bill, but as the NDP have already lowered the small business tax rate from 3 per cent to 2 per cent, it is possible Mandel would like to see the tax completely abolished.

Kenney initially played coy on the topic, saying he had no plans to roll back the $15 per hour wage but in a speech to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce last week he went into detail about his willingness to adopt a system of lower minimum wages based on age or industry.

Jason Kenney Alberta Politics

Jason Kenney

While Kenney was not specific about how far be would roll back wages for young workers, recent UCP leadership candidate Doug Schweitzer, who is now the party’s star candidate in Calgary-Elbow, said last year that he would cut Alberta’s minimum wage by 18.7 per cent from $15 per hour to $12.20 per hour, because it is the “right choice for Albertans whose livelihoods count on it the most.

Kenney also stated he plans to repeal labour law reforms implemented by the NDP, which updated many Alberta laws not changed since the 1970s. It is not clear whether this would include the occupational health and safety code updates, or other changes expanding compassionate care leave, maternal and paternal leave, holiday pay, and the clarification of termination and temporary layoff rules.

While most media attention is focused on small and medium sized businesses who have had to increase their staff salaries, poverty level wages are not just unique to the private sector.

Support staff including educational and financial assistants, library clerks, maintenance staff, secretaries, typists and custodians who work for the Living Waters Catholic School District in Edson, Whitecourt and Slave Lake are on strike because they were fed up with irregular working hours and low salaries. Some staff members have been turning to their local food bank to make ends meet, according to the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, the union representing these workers.

Doug Schweitzer Calgary Alberta Conservative

Doug Schweitzer

The $15 per hour minimum wage was a step in the right direction, but it is still lower than the what is considered to be a living wage in some of Alberta’s urban areas.  Vibrant Communities Calgary estimated in 2017 that the Living Wage in Calgary is $18.15 per hour, the Edmonton Social Planning Council says a living wage in the province’s capital city is $16.31 per hour, the City of Grande Prairie estimated $17.35 per hour, while in 2016 Central Alberta Poverty estimated that the living wage in Red Deer and Central Alberta was between $13.71 and $14.10 per hour.

Increasing the minimum wage is not a silver bullet to eliminating poverty in our province, but raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour will make a big difference in the lives of a lot of working Albertans. 


While the current crop of conservative political leaders have decried the wage increase for Alberta’s lowest paid workers, conservative politicians in the recent past have praised increases to the minimum wage:

This increase to Alberta’s minimum wage is good news for Albertans,” said Premier Ed Stelmach in June 2007, when the minimum wage was raised from $7 per hour to $8 per hour.

Minimum wage offers protection for workers,” said Minister of Employment, Immigration and Industry Iris Evans, also in June 2007. “It sets the minimum rate of pay that employers must meet and ensures that workers, especially women and youth, who traditionally are in the lower income occupations, are making a better wage.”

We want to ensure that Albertans earning the minimum wage are as protected as possible during these changing times,” Minister of Employment and Immigration Hector Goudreau said in March 2009, when the minimum wage increased from $8.40 per hour to $8.80 per hour.


RAGE against the Government

Luke Ouellette Alberta MLA Innisfail-Sylvan Lake

Luke Ouellette

In light of Kenney’s comments this week about decreasing the minimum wage for young workers, the UCP leader also floated the idea of creating a Minister responsible for de-regulation and cutting red tape. This is not a new idea.

In November 2004, Premier Ralph Klein appointed Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Luke Ouellette as Alberta’s only-ever Minister of Restructuring and Government Efficiency. Known by the nickname the “Ministry of RAGE,” the department quickly became an oxymoronic joke because was a government bureaucracy created for the purpose of cutting government’s bureaucracy.

Aside from some responsibilities related to the Alberta SuperNet that were previously handled by another government department, it was never clear what exactly the RAGE Ministry ever accomplished. And before Albertans could ever find out, the position was eliminated and, in December 2006, Ouellette was appointed Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation.

History will show that the Ministry of Restructuring and Government Efficiency was most notable for eliminating the Office of the Minister of Restructuring and Government Efficiency.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson presents the State of the City address.

The Final Countdown: 6 days left until Election Day in Alberta

Staying above the fray of Alberta’s wild 2015 election campaign, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson argued in his annual State of the City Address that which ever political party forms the provincial government after the May 5 election will have to focus on the capital city.

Stephen Mandel Health Minister Alberta Edmonton Whitemud MLA

Stephen Mandel

“I’m confident that no matter what Albertans decide on May 5, together you, along with our city council will not stand for any provincial government ever forgetting about Edmonton again,” Mr. Iveson told an audience in downtown Edmonton.

At his final State of the City Address two years ago, former Mayor Stephen Mandel publicly lambasted the Progressive Conservatives for their short-sighted funding cuts to Alberta’s colleges and universities.

“We should expect nothing less than passionate, relentless defence of this sector from our provincial representatives, who should know better than to just stand by,” Mr. Mandel said in 2013.

Now as the PC candidate in Edmonton-Whitemud, Mr. Mandel has remained quiet about deep cuts to education funding included in the most recent PC budget.

Michael Janz Edmonton

Michael Janz

The Edmonton Public School Board passed a budget this week that will not include enough provincial funding to compensate for the growth in student population in September, as a result of provincial budget cuts.

“If I have one key message for parents, it would be get out there and engage your candidates. Ask them how are you going to ensure that your party will fund my school? How will you ensure that my student will be successful as well as the other students in their class?,” school board chair Michael Janz told the Edmonton Journal.

As we enter the final six days of the election, the parties will now focus their energy and resources on consolidating their support and working to get their voters out to the advance polls and on election day.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader

Rachel Notley

NDP leader Rachel Notley faced criticism last week after a meeting with the Calgary Chamber of Commerce. The Calgary Herald published a one-sided editorial criticizing the NDP proposal for a phased-in $15 minimum wage (which would ensure Albertans working full time earned at least $600 per week and around $31,200 per year).

While lobby groups like the Canadian Federation of Independent Business oppose the proposed increase, some economists, including Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman, suggest an increase to the minimum wage as a means to stimulate the economy [via Ricochet].

The Progressive Conservative Party has not released any new policy positions since Jim Prentice announced last week that he would reopen the budget to reverse changes to the Charitable Donations Tax Credit. Since the leaders’ debate, the PCs have focused their energies on attacking Ms. Notley, who the governing party appears to perceive as their greater challenger on election day.

Danielle Smith Wildrose PC MLA

Danielle Smith

In one of the more bizarre moments of the campaign, former Highwood PC MLA Danielle Smith jumped to Ms. Notley’s defence on Twitter, claiming that the NDP leader’s doubts about the success of the Enbridge corporation’s Northern Gateway Pipeline project are similar to an opinion Mr. Prentice publicly expressed in September 2014.

Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean announced his party’s plans for funding special needs education and a formula for funding municipal growth. And AlbertaPolitics.ca blogger David Climenhaga wrote one of the more comprehensive backgrounds on Mr. Jean and his Fort McMurray “rags to riches” story.

Janet Keeping Alberta Green Party

Janet Keeping

The PCs sent out a press release yesterday attacking Calgary-Bow Wildrose candidate Trevor Grover who was a candidate for the anti-free trade Canada Action Party in the 2006 federal election. If the PCs hope to win the “controversial candidate accusations game,” they should reflect on one of their own nominated candidates who was arrested and plead guilty to prostitution related charges while travelling abroad on government business in December 2013.

The Alberta Party released plans to provide stable funding to post-secondary institutions and deal with municipal issues such as housing and public transit. The Liberals released plans to fix the health care system and accused the NDP of playing board games with finances. And Green Party leader Janet Keeping called for the adoption of an Environmental Bill of Rights [Ms. Keeping is running against Mr. Prentice in Calgary-Foothills].

Advance polls will be open across the province over the next four days from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Voters unable to cast a ballot on the May 5 Election Day can now vote on April 29 and 30, and May 1 and 2.


I made my debut on CBC Radio’s The Current yesterday morning when I joined the National Post’s Jen Gerson, the Edmonton Sun’s Lorne Gunter and host Anna Maria Tremonti for a panel discussion about Alberta’s election campaign.