Blog | June 14, 2012

By Jason van Rassel, Calgary HeraldOne Alberta advocacy group has answered the province’s call for social policy ideas with a plea for higher wages.Public Interest Alberta released data it obtained from Statistics Canada showing nearly 25 per cent of working Albertans are making less than $15 an hour — 418,900 out of a workforce of 1,763,000.In Calgary, Public Interest Alberta said about 140,000 people are making less than $15 an hour — 22.5 per cent of the city’s estimated 624,600 workers.Of those workers, the majority — 94,000 — are making less than $13 an hour.Although those hourly rates are higher than the province’s current $9.40 minimum wage, a Public Interest Alberta spokeswoman said it is difficult to move beyond subsistence in Calgary with that kind of pay.“People are getting by, they’re not getting ahead — they’re not saving, they’re not spending quality time with their families,” said Julie Hrdlicka.“It’s a struggle for them.”More than 75 per cent of Calgarians making less than $15 an hour are over the age of 20, according to the data.Public Interest Alberta and the Alberta College of Social Workers bought the data, covering a one-year period ending March 31, 2012, from Statistics Canada.The provincial government is in the midst of developing what it calls a “social policy framework” — a broad plan for how the government, community agencies and individuals will tackle issues such as housing and employment.The government has asked citizens to submit their ideas, and Hrdlicka said people should demand a “living wage” for Albertans.“We’re hoping more people recognize this is in their community, these are their neighbours making these wages,” she said.But a business lobby group said legislating higher wages aren’t the answer.“Anything governments do to increase the floor on wages will result in job cuts,” said Richard Truscott, Alberta director of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.Alberta’s minimum wage is set to rise to $9.75 on Sept. 1, but the hot economy is doing enough on its own to drive workers’ pay far higher than that threshold, said Truscott.“Wages in Alberta have been rising faster than anywhere in the country,” he said.“The best minimum wage policy is a strong economy.”Wage statistics for other Alberta municipalities, including Edmonton, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, Grande Prairie and Wood Buffalo, are available on Public Interest Alberta’s website.By Jason van Rassel, Calgary Heraldjvanrassel@calgaryherald.com
Twitter: @JasonvanRasselThis article was published in the Calgary Herald on June 14, 2012. Read the full article on the Calgary Herald website.