Blog | August 31, 2013

By Zentner, Caroline on August 31, 2013.lethbridge herald, front pageczentner@lethbridgeherald.comAlberta’s minimum wage will increase to $9.95 an hour on Sunday, but Public Interest Alberta contends the increase will do nothing to help the government fulfil its promise to alleviate child poverty.In 2012 Alison Redford promised to end child poverty in five years. But Bill Moore-Kilgannon, executive director of Public Interest Alberta, said more than half of the 91,000 children living in poverty had a parent working full-time throughout the year, according to the organization’s poverty report last year.“This whopping 20-cent hike in minimum wages is definitely not enough,” Moore-Kilgannon said. “The fact is our minimum wage is the lowest in Canada yet our province is a fairly expensive place to live.”Based on information from Statistics Canada, which was purchased by Public Interest Alberta and the Alberta College of Social Workers, one in more than four workers in Lethbridge makes less than $15 per hour. That equates to 28 per cent of employed people in the city. Medicine Hat and Lethbridge take first and second places respectively for having the highest number of low-wage workers among cities in Alberta. In Alberta, 21 per cent of those employed are low-wage earners on average.“We know that we have a lot of young families in Lethbridge and we also know, from these statistics, that most of the workers that are working for low wage are in their prime working years,” said Lorinda Peel, a Lethbridge-based community mobilizer with Public Interest Alberta. “A high percentage are between 25 and 44 years old and a very high percentage are over 20. Everyone thinks when they say ‘minimum wage’ that that mostly affects teenagers. It’s definitely not the case.”Peel said rents in Lethbridge have increased and a 20-cent increase in minimum wage doesn’t cover the difference.“We need to be letting the government know that this is not acceptable, that in their poverty-reduction strategy they need to address the actual implications for families and communities,” Peel said.Peel said she’s attended several poverty-reduction meetings and one of the common solutions mentioned at every meeting is that an increase in minimum wage is needed.“If you give people more of a chance to be able to sustain themselves then you’re eliminating the need to put more money into poverty reduction and other social issues down the road,” she said. “It’s a preventative measure that we can take right now to ensure that poverty levels do not increase. It’s always smarter to take the preventative measures wherever possible.”Moore-Kilgannon said scientific studies have shown that inequality hurts the whole society and that the government actually spends more money over the long term dealing with the fallout from poverty.The Ministry of Human Services is consulting the public about the development of its poverty-reduction strategy.“This is an important time politically for Albertans to be talking to their MLAs, to be speaking out and saying ‘Look, if you’re developing a poverty-reduction strategy it better be more than just nice words but better have a real impact on people being able to earn a decent living and to get the services and support that allow them to move out of poverty,’” Moore-Kilgannon said.Alberta Human Services Minister Dave Hancock could not be reached by press time Friday.Read the article on the Lethbridge Herald.