By J.W. Schnarr
The Municipal District of Taber council does not support the Alberta government’s plan to raise minimum wage to $15 by 2018.
During their regular meeting on July 14, council discussed a letter from Tyrel McLelland regarding the issue. McLelland is the chair of the Taber Regional Joint Economic Development Committee and the president of the Taber and District Chamber of Commerce. He has also been an outspoken critic of the wage hike, and has met with local MLAs and been vocal on social media in regards to the issue.
“This is (McClelland’s) pet peeve,” quipped Reeve Brian Brewin.
“It’s also the pet peeve of a few business owners in town,” added Division 5 Coun. Bob Wallace.
In a letter from the JEDC, McLelland indicated the increase has “raised concerns over how it will affect local businesses in the long term.” He noted the issue was raised at a JEDC meeting on June 25, and at that point Brewin made a motion for the JEDC to write a letter that could be used at the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) and Alberta Association of Municipal District and Counties (AAMDC) to request the Alberta government to re-evaluate the increase.
Brewin said he was expecting the issue to come up in a number of other municipalities.
“This is probably going to be handled by somebody else. I can’t see us being the only ones,” he said.
Division 1 Coun. Merrill Harris said the increase would affect more than just the 1.5 per cent of Albertans who make minimum wage.
“The girl who’s making $10 is going to make $15. The girl who is $15 is going to want $20. It’s real tough on small businesses. I’m not opposed to a wage increase, but this is a little bit too much.”
Division 2 Coun. Tom Machacek was straightforward in his support of the resolution without elaborating.
“I support the resolution,” he said.
Division 4 Coun. Ben Elfring said the increase in wages was going to cause an increase in goods and services and have long-term affects on the economy.
“Fifteen dollars an hour, it’s going to increase everything from a cup of coffee to clothing, whatever,” he said. “It’s too high. It’s going to cost everybody in the long run and hurt the economy.”
Division 5 Coun. Bob Wallace said it is hard for people who don’t live on minimum wage incomes to argue against the increase, but that he supports local business.
“It definitely is a tough one,” he said. “People who earn more than $15 an hour, it’s hard to argue a minimum wage increase. But businesses are asking for some support, to bring some light on it, and I support businesses.”
Division 6 Coun. Duff Dunsmore agreed with Elfring in regards to the impact the increase could have on the economy.
“That’s the thing about it,” he said, noting the increase would affect more than just the people getting the raise.
Deputy Reeve Dwight Tolton said the increase was likely to cause unrest with Albertans who already make more than the planned $15 per hour.
“It’s not the minimum wage that is the real issue here,” he said. “It’s that everything will be increased. If someone is getting $15 now, they will want $18 or $20. They don’t realize it’s a snowball effect.”
“It is too much, too quick,” said Wallace.
Following discussion, council passed a motion to draft a resolution that can be brought forward to both AUMA and the AAMDC.