Alberta minimum wage hike happening too fast, says business group

Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci is hearing concerns from business leaders about the NDP government's plan to increase the minimum wage.

Alberta finance minister hearing more worries about minimum wage hike

Finance Minister Joe Ceci takes questions from the media while Edmonton Chamber of Commerce President Janet Riopel listens. (CBC )

Alberta Finance Minister Joe Ceci is hearing concerns from business leaders about the NDP government's plan to increase the minimum wage.

Ceci says the hike was one of the issues raised Monday in a meeting with the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce.

"They had some solutions in terms of supports they might like small business to receive to be able to follow through with that," said Ceci.

Suggestions included a different pay scale for new or young employees or help to businesses to defray the cost of hiring summer students.

"There are a number of things but ... there was no conclusion or agreement on any of those."

Janet Riopel, president of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, agreed that employees deserve a living wage. But she added the minimum wage is only one of many factors the government should consider to help employees and businesses flourish.

"It's a matter of looking at the overall package of goods that employers are actually paying, and also their capacity (to pay)," said Riopel, who noted that businesses provide other benefits along with a salary.

"We've encouraged government to slow things down a little bit, to consult more fully with small business."

Hike scheduled for October

Riopel said one solution might lie in training initiatives and other programs "that can perhaps bring in minimum wage on a slower basis and recognize as you train employees perhaps you don't pay these escalated rates right away."

Premier Rachel Notley's government is scheduled to raise the minimum wage by $1 to $11.20 an hour on Oct. 1. The rate is to go up to $15 an hour by 2018.

When the NDP's first increase takes effect in October, only Ontario and the Northwest Territories will pay more to those who earn the least.

Saskatchewan will be the lowest at $10.20 an hour. 

Notley's government has said the increase is needed to ensure employees can meet basic needs. The government also plans to do away with its minimum-wage differential, which pays liquor servers $9.20 an hour on the assumption they make up the rest in tips. Alberta is one of five provinces with a differential.

Ceci is touring the province looking for input as he crafts a budget for the current 2015-16 fiscal year. The government is to introduce the budget in late October.

The province has already passed legislation to raise taxes on large corporations to 12 per cent from 10 per cent and to boost income taxes on the top seven per cent of earners.


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