Sending it back: Restaurants Canada launches critical campaign ahead of Alberta election

Restaurants Canada held an event to launch their new campaign featuring restaurant owner testimonials of issues they've faced under the current Alberta government.

The campaign focuses on Alberta restaurant owners who have faced issues under the current NDP government

Attendees at a Restaurants Canada event watch a new video campaign, which features testimonials of restaurant owners in Alberta speaking about issues they face under the current Alberta Government. (Richard Marion/Radio-Canada)

With an election looming in Alberta, Restaurants Canada has cooked up a video campaign critical of Alberta's current NDP government with testimonies from restaurant owners and the issues they face.

The organization, which represents more than 30,000 food-service businesses, launched the video Tuesday in a conference room full of local restaurant owners at the Matrix Hotel in Edmonton.

Restaurant owners interviewed in the video spoke about the rising costs of doing business, payroll increases, expansion to other provinces and mandatory statutory holiday pay.

"These are small entrepreneurs who put their life savings into their businesses. They felt that, you know, the combination of a weak economy and all these policy changes just made it impossible for them to stay in business," said Mark von Schellwitz, Restaurants Canada's vice-president for Western Canada.

Speakers at the event were critical of the current government, citing job losses, businesses closing and a drop in sales. The issues were attributed to Alberta NDP's policies and the government's successive increases to the minimum wage, which hit $15 an hour in October.

"Our warning was back in 2015 that if you do this, especially right now, the minimum wage [would be] increased too much, too fast," von Schellwitz said.

Stephen Mandel speaks to the crowd at Restaurants Canada event on Tuesday. (Richard Marion/Radio-Canada)

Business policies

Jason Kenney, leader of the United Conservative Party, spoke at the event about a UCP proposal for an open-for-business act.

"It would repeal a number of the NDP attacks on job creators, such as the ridiculous imposition of a statutory holiday pay requirement even for businesses that are not open on statutory holidays, as well as restoring the practice of returning to employers an excess surplus in the WCB fund," he said. 

He also promised to revisit Alberta's liquor laws.

'An anti-worker campaign'

Labour Minister Christina Gray was invited but cancelled plans to attend after she found out more about Restaurants Canada's campaign. She called it "an anti-worker campaign."

"I felt attending their event might show some sort of endorsement," Gray said. "I reject the launch of this third-party campaign to roll back workers' rights.

"We need to support working Albertans through having fair wages, having fair employment standards rules and making sure that those who make the very least in our province and work a full day are still able to put food on their table at the end of the workday."

Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, showed up to the event to speak against the campaign and in support of Alberta's minimum wage.

"With this campaign from Restaurants Canada and comments from the UCP and the Alberta Party, they're trying to take advantage of the misfortune Albertans have grown through in terms of an oil price collapse and use that as an excuse to justify reducing or freezing the minimum wage or introducing two-tier wages," McGowan said.



Travis McEwan

Video journalist

Travis McEwan is a video journalist who covers stories ranging from human interest and sports to municipal and provincial issues. Originally from Churchill, Man., Travis has spent the last decade working at CBC Edmonton reporting for web, radio and television. Email story ideas to travis.mcewan@cbc.ca.


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