NDP plan to hike Alberta minimum wage comes under fire

She’s not yet premier but already Rachel Notley has raised the ire of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business by reiterating her commitment to raising Alberta’s minimum wage.

Canadian Federation of Independent Business urges NDP to re-think minimum wage plan

Minimum hourly wages by province as of May 1, 2015. (Retail Council of Canada)

She's not yet premier but Rachel Notley has already raised the ire of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business by reiterating her commitment to raising Alberta's minimum wage.

During the election campaign, Notley pledged to raise minimum wage from the current $10.20 to $15 within three years, which would take it from the lowest to the highest in Canada.

"By increasing the minimum wage, that also increases the tax they pay," said Amber Ruddy, a senior policy analyst with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

"Why not just increase the basic personal exemption?" she asked. "Then low-income earners can keep more of those dollars for themselves, instead of also having to pay more payroll taxes, EI CPP and other things that would come off your paycheque."

Notley hasn't given details about when or how she'll raise the minimum wage but did say cabinet, which will be sworn in Sunday, will meet to discuss the rollout of the changes.

"Without question, that was in our platform and we intend to move forward on it," she said at a news conference Wednesday.

Ruddy said the proposed $5 increase the NDP platform will force small businesses in Alberta to cut back on job creation, training and work hours for employees.

Edmonton's downtown business says no big deal

Business owners working in the heart of downtown Edmonton aren't complaining about a possible increase to minimum wage, or at least aren't sharing their concerns with Jim Taylor, the president of the downtown business association.

"I really have to be honest and say I haven't heard anything directly," he said before meeting with members at an association luncheon on Thursday. 

He added that business owners should have done their homework and knew that the increase was coming.

"Anybody who has been listening knew that this was going to be part of the new government," he said.

"Smart people adjust their business plans and know it's coming." 

Cindy Lazarenko, catering manager with Culina Restaurants, doesn't believe the hike will hurt her business which employs about 25 people.

"It's so competitive right now with restaurants, so we're what we're really focusing on is to offer a competitive wage to get the best quality employees," she said.

Rising food costs are a bigger concern to her right now, Lazarenko said.

Meanwhile, CFIB said it plans to launch a campaign to educate the public about minimum wage, before the government undertakes what it described as a "big jump."

The last time minimum wage was increased in Alberta was Sept.1, 2014, when the hourly wage was raised from $9.95 to $10.20 an hour. The province was the last in Canada to hit the $10 general minimum wage barrier. 

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