Detractors say raise isn’t enough
It’s no joke: April Fool’s Day will include a 40-cent boost to the minimum wage, but critics charge the increase is a few pennies shy of a decent earning, considering the cost of living.
Premier Ed Stelmach confirmed after a Treasury Board meeting yesterday the province’s minimum wage will rise to $8.40 from $8.
"With our vibrant economy and low unemployment, most employers are paying more than minimum wage, but this will set the base," he said.
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About 70,000 people, or 3.5 per cent of working Albertans, currently earn minimum wage, many of them teenagers. Stelmach says the increase will also assist students as they begin temporary summer jobs.
But opposition critics say the increase isn’t enough when housing prices have skyrocketed and some residents have been forced to work two jobs just to pay the rent.
"It’s not enough. It’s not a living wage — not in this city, not in this province," said Liberal critic Laurie Blakeman.
Last June, the province tied minimum wage increases to the rise of inflation through a weekly wage index, calculated annually. Blakeman says indexing doesn’t work because the original minimum wage was too low, so increases will remain inadequate. But the premier says his critics seem to forget Alberta has no provincial sales tax and the nation’s highest income tax exemption, which places the new minimum wage as one of the highest in Canada.
higher out East