Alberta’s minimum wage rose by $1 Oct. 1 to $12.20 per hour, the third highest level in Canada behind Northwest Territories at $12.50 and Nunavut at $13.
The increase is part of the New Democrat government’s plan to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour as of Oct. 1, 2018.
As of Oct. 1, the province also eliminated the lower minimum wage for liquor servers, which was $10.70 per hour, so they, too, will be paid a minimum of $12.20.
Across the West, the minimum wage in British Columbia is $10.85, in Saskatchewan $10.72 as of Oct. 1, and in Manitoba $11.
“Every Albertan working full time deserves to earn enough to provide the basics and live with dignity,” said Labor Minister Christina Gray at a news event Sept. 28.
“Increasing minimum wage means fewer families having to visit the food bank to make ends meet. Albertans who see their wage increase will have more money to spend in the local economy on necessities like rent and groceries.”
The government said approximately 300,000 Albertans now earn less than $15 per hour and nearly 62 percent are female.
The Wildrose party said the hike will put thousands of jobs at risk, coming as it does during an economic downturn in the province.
Wildrose leader Brian Jean said more than 4,100 businesses have closed in Calgary this year and more than 8,500 jobs lost in Edmonton.
“By making it even more costly for employers to create jobs, the NDP have completely abandoned their duty to do no further harm when Albertans are already hurting,” Jean said in a news release.
The Wildrose party asked the NDP to delay the wage increase and do an economic impact study on its ramifications, but that idea was rejected by government.
Policy analysts at the Fraser Institute have panned the minimum wage increase in Alberta.
“In just a year, and at a time when the energy sector has been hit hard by depressed commodity prices, the provincial government has made several policy choices that stand to hinder investment and growth,” said analysts Charles Lammam and Taylor Jackson in a column distributed to media.
Premier Rachel Notley defended her government’s plan, acknowledging that costs for small business owners will increase. She said a reduction to small business taxes will be implemented Jan. 1, 2017.
The Manitoba government recently announced that it will freeze its minimum wage as it consults with taxpayers and business owners.