Show us the money

You know you're getting older when you can recall the minimum wage for Ontario in 1976 was $2.15. But the cost of living back when Disco was the music of choice at a bar on a Saturday night was considerably lower than what Albertans are paid today.

And to think this province's workers continue to endure unnecessary hardship and poverty thanks to a two-year delay in increasing the minimum wage by the Alberta government.

Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan notes this province's minimum wage has been stuck at $8.80 per hour since April 2009. Meanwhile, your grocery costs and the cost to fill a gas tank have gone up considerly more than wages.

What's unacceptable, says McGowan, is the government more than a year ago needlessly cancelling a scheduled increase to the minimum-wage level.

Last fall, the Alberta legislature standing committee on the economy recommended an immediate increase to $9.05 per hour. The Minister of Employment and Immigration has ignored that recommendation.

"This is inexcusable," says McGowan.

Yes it is, but will the province adopt the $9.05 minimum-wage level and restore annual increases to the minimum wage, based on the average weekly earnings index?

McGowan would like to see the government make a one-time bump to the minimum wage to $12.20 as the province's economy stabilizes, so low-income earners can make a living wage. Makes sense to have full-time workers in this province being able to earn a wage that allows them to stay out of poverty. The current minimum wage does not do that.

There must also be a system in place that guarantees regular increases to prevent the minimum level from being eroded by inflation. The current minimum wage leaves a full-time worker at an income of $4,000 per year below the low-income cutoff, otherwise known as the poverty line.

Alberta can afford to do better when you compare the minimum wages from the rest of Canada, with BC the lowest at $8 - in Australia it's $20 - Newfoundland $10, Nunavut $11, Quebec $9.50, Ontario $10.25, Saskatchewan $9.25 or Nova Scotia $9.65.

Hanna Herald, Sat Mar 26 2011

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