Minimum-wage increase scorned by Alberta poverty fighters

A small increase in Alberta's minimum wage kicks in on Monday but the result is nowhere near a living wage, critics say.

Living wage closer to $17 an hour than $10.20, advocate says

Alberta's minimum-wage earners will get a small raise on Sept. 1 but it remains a long way from a living wage, critics say. (Paul Sakuma/Associated Press)

A small increase in Alberta's minimum wage kicks in on Monday but the result is nowhere near a living wage, critics say.

The province's general minimum wage will rise on Sept. 1 to $10.20 an hour from $9.95, and the liquor server minimum wage will go to $9.20 from $9.05.

However, minimum wage doesn't come close to being enough for people to meet the basic level of need, according to Vibrant Communities Calgary, a non-profit organization that works to address the root causes of poverty in the city.

Kathryn Cormier of Vibrant Communities Calgary says a living wage in the city is nearly $17 an hour, leaving those earning minimum wage with little chance of rising from poverty. (LinkedIn)

A "living wage" for people in the city is more than $17 an hour, Vibrant spokeswoman Kathryn Cormier told CBC News. 

"And that is just to cover the basics," she said. "No one's going to be saving for a vacation off of that number, you know. Those extras in life aren't accounted for in that calculation."

The average person working for the minimum wage would have to work about 60 hours a week just to make ends meet, Cormier said.

Cecilia Ortiz no longer works for minimum wage, but the Calgary resident says it's still tough to make ends meet.

In the seven years since she moved to the city with her two children, Ortiz says she's never had a permanent, full-time job and that makes it hard to make long-term commitments.

And while she's lucky to have a better job now, Ortiz says it still doesn't help her plan for the long term.

"Even that is not enough for someone to start from scratch and get a home and get a mortgage and get a car," she said. "That's not doable."

Adding insult to injury, Ortiz says she didn't have a vacation for four years.


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