Alberta Premier and NDP leader Rachel Notley has attempted to appease critics after it was confirmed the province would raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018.
Speaking to the media, the 52-year-old addressed concerns that the wage hike would force companies to cut their workforce and said she didn’t think it would come to that.
“We've been listening and talking and deliberating, and we believe that we're striking the right balance,” she told reporters.
Notley made the comments a day after Labour Minister Christina Gray announced cabinet had passed the required regulation to not only raise the rate to $12.20 an hour this October, but also to boost it again in October 2017 and once more in October 2018.
“One of the things we heard strongly from many of the stakeholders, including business, was the desire for certainty, to know what was coming,” said Gray in an interview. “In July, we laid out the plan for all three years, and now we’ve enacted that plan for all three years.”
Business groups and opposition critics have been urging Notley's government to rethink the increases or, at least, further investigate their implications on the economy before acting.
They say the raises are too much, too fast, and will further cripple businesses already hurt by a protracted slump in oil prices.
Amber Ruddy of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said the province is blindly pursuing an ideological agenda.
“This government has ignored their own advisers, entrepreneurs and the facts,'' she stressed. “Every policy that's coming down is a job-killing policy, and it's time to change things.”
Grant Hunter – with the Opposition Wildrose party – called the move ill-timed tinkering that will be self-defeating when business owners try recovering the cost of higher wages by cutting jobs or raising prices.
“Vulnerable Albertans will be affected by this,'' he predicted.
Progressive Conservative leader Ric McIver agreed.
“The biggest group they're going to hurt is low-income and poor Albertans, because there will be thousands of hours of work eliminated that would have otherwise been available,” he said. “Today is a very sad commentary on the state of our government.”
Despite the criticism, Notley has stood strong and insists the increases are a sustainable way of providing a fair wage to those who need it most.
As of October 1, Alberta will have the highest minimum wage amongst all provinces. The territories – Nanavut at $13 an hour and the Northwest Territories at $12.50 an hour – remain higher.
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- Written with contributions from the Canadian Press