Alberta small business owners urge freeze on minimum wage

CFIB survey of Alberta small businesses found that 55% have reduced or eliminated plans to hire workers as the result of wage increases

Mario Toneguzzi: Alberta small business owners urge freeze on minimum wageSmall business owners in Alberta continue to express their dismay over the minimum wage level in the province.

A survey released on Wednesday by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said 89 per cent of small business owners in Alberta are urging the provincial government to freeze the minimum wage at its current level of $13.60 an hour.

The wage is scheduled to rise to $15 an hour on Oct. 1.

With the hike, the CFIB said the minimum wage will have increased 47 per cent between 2015 and 2018.

“Fifteen dollars per hour is a completely arbitrary number that does nothing for employees that are having their hours reduced or are losing their jobs altogether,” said Amber Ruddy, CFIB’s director of provincial affairs in Alberta, in a statement.

“Hikes to entry-level wages go too far, too fast and ultimately positions for young workers are disappearing. The Alberta government must be held accountable and hit the pause button until a thorough economic impact assessment is released.”

The CFIB survey of small business owners in Alberta found the following in response to minimum wage hikes in the province:

  • 55 per cent have reduced or eliminated plans to hire new or additional workers;
  • 52 per cent have reduced or eliminated plans to hire young workers;
  • 46 per cent have raised prices;
  • 43 per cent have reduced overall staffing hours;
  • 42 per cent have reduced their number of employees.

A higher minimum wage can help reduce poverty, lessen the burden on social support programs and improve the quality of life for vulnerable Albertans, says the Alberta government on its website. It can also improve employee satisfaction, which can help employers reduce staff turnover, recruitment and training expenses. Higher levels of employee satisfaction and productivity may improve profits and help expand business.

Recent studies in Canada and the U.S. show that gradual increases to the minimum wage do not have a negative effect on overall employment levels. Positive effects of raising minimum wage include increased consumer spending, better health outcomes and lower wage inequality, especially for women.

The government says it’s phasing in minimum wage increases to ensure employers are aware of the timing well in advance so they can plan accordingly.

Respected business writer Mario Toneguzzi is a veteran Calgary-based journalist who worked for 35 years for the Calgary Herald in various capacities, including 12 years as a senior business writer.

Alberta small business owners urge freeze on minimum wageThe views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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