The Fort Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce says that three years of minimum wage increases are hurting local businesses.
Alberta’s minimum wage went from $13.60 to $15 per hour on October 1, marking the last step in a series of increases that began in October 2015. Alberta now has the highest minimum wage in Canada. With the change in effect, workers who put in 40 hours a week will see a $2,912 yearly boost in pay.
“The $15 minimum wage will make life more affordable for women, single parents, families and everyone who has been working a full-time job or more but is still struggling to put food on the table and pay their rent. I’m proud that we are delivering on our commitment to everyday Albertan families,” said minister of labour Christina Gray in an announcement about Monday’s increase.
Fort Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce executive director Tamara Dabels said a number of local business owners have approached the chamber with concerns about the effect of the higher pay. She added that other legislated changes, including tax increases, are also making it harder for businesses in the city.
“When you take a look at the layering effects and all the changes that have taken place this year, it's not just the minimum wage that is having an impact.”
Dabels said the chamber has previously lobbied the government to slow down on raising wages and to assess consequences for business owners before putting the increases into effect.
“We've held round tables. We've issued letters on behalf of our membership. We've certainly had face to face conversations with the minister of labour and our MLA."
Dabels said she has seen some businesses close their doors permanently.
“An awful lot of the time when we're talking about these businesses, we're talking about small and medium enterprises. These are owned by middle class people in our community. And their bottom line is shrinking and shrinking.”
According to Dabels, both local shoppers and employees will end up paying for the “increasing costs of doing business.”
“You're going to see some changes in pricing as they pass on some of that increase to the consumer,” she said. “They are going to be changing the way they schedule their people. We're going to see a change in hiring practices, just to ensure that they're able to continue to stay in business.”
The provincial government reports that more than a quarter million Albertans, or 11 per cent of all workers, were earning less than $15 per hour before the recent wage boost.