After Newfoundland raised its minimum wage to $6.00 earlier this month, Albertan employees working on the bottom rung of the economic ladder are now getting paid the least in Canada: $5.90 per hour.
Despite our newfound status, Alberta Premier Ralph Klein announced he has no intention of raising minimum wage. He points out that only a small portion of Albertans receive the minimum wage--part-time employees or students--and, quite unsurprisingly, he doesn't want to hurt business.
What Klein fails to realize, is that the people making the minimum wage are the people who need it most. The working poor, many of whom must work multiple part-time or low-paying full-time jobs to make ends meet, and students are Albertans who suffer most when decisions like this are made. With so many people in Alberta living below the poverty line, it's saddening to see them ignored.
It's no surprise that the "Alberta Advantage" is aimed at business. Klein rationalizes the minimum wage with the same arguments and flare that he touts lower corporate taxes and a variety of business-focused legislation. The idea that if business prospers, the wealth will trickle down to the people is extremely utopian. We legislate a minimum wage because this simply does not happen. Corporations want to get richer, and sharing the wealth is not part of that. Because of this, the lower-class, working poor are left by the wayside.
Klein argues that raising the minimum wage would be a devastating blow to the economy. While it is difficult to argue that it will have some effect, it won't be the destruction some describe. However, Klein and the rest of his supporters neglect to look at how this decision affects the very people they should be representing and providing for.
- Opinions Editor
The Dickensian factories of Alberta are filled with pregnant women, hobbled urchins and elderly monsters with crooked limbs. Industrialists like Ralph Klein and Harvey Weingarten hoard wheat every winter, in vain hope that they will squeeze more blood from the helpless proletariat. They eat coal, bathe in oil and breathe carbon monoxide which spews from their smokestacks and kills baby ducks.
The minimum wage, a beacon of light, offers the only the chance of hope against bourgeois brutality. However, it rests at a desperate $5.90 per hour--a number so vile people curse its very existence.
Albertan workers are a depressed lot. Their infinite (magical?) skill does not give them a living wage. For example, when a Newfoundlander sits on his toilet he only produces a sulphurous mound of brown goo. For this, and for serving french fries, the fortunate fool gets $6. An Albertan meanwhile, sits in his windswept outhouse, teeth chattering from the Prairie cold. His frozen digits can hardly unzip, yet he produces alabaster, lithium, cotton and even petroleum, all at the drop of the pants.
When the Albertan returns to his shack, all he has is $47 for his eight hours of work. Then the tax collector comes, breaks his ankles and
urinates on his wife. Bloodied,
beaten and humiliated, he can do nothing but lay there--wiping
his tears with his last ten dollar bill.
In reality, Alberta is far from poverty and that is why people flock to this province. The minimum wage is low to create good conditions for the business sector, which in turn creates jobs for the workers. Alberta's skilled workers are among the best paid in Canada, and only a small portion of the work force relies on the minimum wage to begin with. Because of the "Alberta Advantage," taxes in our province are minimal, not only for business but also for individuals. Finally, there is no outcry for change. The majority of Albertans enjoy the status quo, because the status quo is what raised their standard of living in the first place.