By Greg Price
The Alberta Chamber’s of Commerce is currently gathering information on the impact of the NDP provincial government’s proposal to raise Alberta’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by issuing a survey to businesses.
“I’m really curious how it’s going. The general murmurings I’ve been hearing from the business community have been mixed, but most businesses, especially small businesses are afraid of how it’s going to hurt them,” said Tyrel McLelland, president of the Taber and District Chamber of Commerce and general manager for the Heritage Inn Hotel and Convention Centre.
On May 29, Lori Sigurdson, the Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training, and Labour announced consultations regarding a minimum wage increase would take place in June. It is expected that consultations will be complete by early July and the phased increases will take effect starting October 1, 2015, with minimum wage raised currently from $10.20 an hour to the proposed $15 an hour by 2018.
“There is a lot of fear out there. I’m sure in some situations it’s founded and some it’s probably not. The Taber and District Chamber of Commerce have not yet taken a position on it, but it will be discussed at our September board meeting,” said McLelland.
McLelland confirmed the survey has been circulated to everybody’s e-mail that the Chamber of Commerce possesses. If you are a business and the Chamber missed circulating the survey to you, you can call the chamber office at 403-223-2265 and be provided a link to the survey.
“I haven’t heard very much through the Chamber about it. But I have noticed several partner organizations who work with chambers of commerce have been putting out similar surveys like the Alberta Hotels and Lodging Association have been doing one,” said McLelland. “There has been a lot of worries in the hospitality industries about it.”
McLelland noted businesses have not been told how big the initial bump in the minimum wage will be in the phase-in period starting in October which can hinder long-term planning.
“We have to start adjusting our budgets accordingly,” said McLelland.
McLelland encourages people to phone the Chamber and District of Commerce office to voice their opinions on the proposed minimum wage. increase in Alberta or would like more information, and assures those opinions will be shared at the chamber’s September meeting on Sept. 14 which is a meeting that is open to the public.
“I don’t know if anything will be decided, but I hope so. We need to take a position on this and odds are pretty good we are going to follow the position of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce. They have all the experts that follow these things very closely,” said McLelland. “I have had a meeting with our MLA about it (Grant Hunter) and he is the Wildrose critic for Jobs, Skills, and Labour.”
McLelland noted speaking personally from the chamber chair only and as general manger of the Heritage Inn, he thinks the minimum wage increase will be damaging to Taber’s economy. Part of the problem according to him is the sweeping generalizations of the wage increase, whether it’s a huge corporation like Wal-Mart or McDonalds employing minimum-wage workers or your small business, mom-and-pop business employing people in single digits. Also, the cost of living varies from several centres in the province.
“I’m rather concerned that rural Alberta like Taber gets lumped into the same regulations as Calgary, Edmonton and Fort McMurray,” said McLelland. “It’s dangerous lumping in rural areas like Taber in with urban centres and oil-patch cities like Fort McMurray.”