Alberta to raise minimum wage by $1 in October

The Alberta government announced the minimum wage will go up by $1 to $12.20 per hour on Oct. 1 the first of three staged increase to get to a $15 minimum wage by 2018.

Government continuing with controversial plan to raise minimum wage to $15 by 2018

Labour Minister Christina Gray announced Thursday that the Alberta government will raise minimum wage by $1 an hour this fall. (CBC )

Alberta's minimum wage will rise by $1 to $12.20 per hour on Oct. 1, the first of three staged increases to reach a $15 minimum wage by 2018, the province announced Thursday.

Labour Minister Christina Gray said the government will also eliminate the lower pay rate for liquor servers this fall. The weekly minimum amount for a 40-hour work week will be $486. People who are paid by the month will earn a minimum of $2,316.

The minimum wage will go up $1.40 an hour to $13.60 an hour on Oct. 1, 2017. The government will reach the $15 minimum wage by Oct. 1, 2018.

The government raised the minimum wage by $1 last fall. 

"We believe that the minimum wage for full-time work should at least allow people to meet their basic needs," Gray said at a news conference in Edmonton.

"That means no one working a full-time job should have to stop at a food bank and choose between rent and buying groceries."

Opposition from business

Gray said the majority of people who earn less than $15 an hour are adults over the age of 20. Two-thirds of them are women. 

Gray said the plan gives certainty to business owners over the next three years. 

"These steps are being phased in responsibly, giving employers time to adjust, and lower income Albertans the help they need to provide for themselves and their families," she said. 

The minimum wage increase has been opposed by industry groups, including Restaurants Canada, and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. 

Restaurants Canada launched an online petition earlier this month asking the government to postpone increases until the economy improves. 

The group also wanted the government to keep the lower liquor server wage and introduce a lower minimum wage for youth. 

Gray deflected reporters' questions about the potential for job losses in the restaurant industry due to higher costs. 

"We believe that making sure that every Albertan has a fair wage is most important."

Restaurants Canada, which Gray called a "well-funded lobby group," was heard in the recent review, in addition to low-wage earners, she said. 

She said the low small business tax and the absence of sales and payroll taxes make Alberta one of the best places to start a business in Canada.

Job losses a concern

However, opposition parties restated their objections to the minimum wage hike. 

Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said the increase comes at the worst time for the Alberta economy when thousands are losing their jobs. According to Statistics Canada, the net Alberta job loss in May was 24,000 jobs. 

"Combined with a series of other tax increases, this aggressive timeline comes at the wrong time as our economy continues to suffer," Jean said in a news release. 

Interim Progressive Conservative Leader Ric McIver called on the NDP to "hit the brakes" on the increases. 

"During these tough economic times, we have seen businesses forced to lay off hard-working Albertans or shut down completely," McIver said in a news release. "On top of the new carbon tax, a minimum wage increase will only result in more job losses."