Lesser Slave Lake
During the 2015 election, Conservatives told Albertans to “look in the mirror.”
After years of a booming economy, global oil prices were slipping. Alberta was on the brink of the greatest recession in generations.
Conservatives had been in power so long in Alberta, they’d forgotten what it meant to have a regular job. During the best times, governments had saved little, built sky palaces and put buddies on boards. When things got tough, they passed the buck and blamed Albertans.
Under previous governments, Alberta’s good times were bad times for many families – especially women, Indigenous people, new Canadians and those working for minimum wage. They saw it in higher rents and increased living expenses.
I’ve met Albertans who’ve shared struggles of having to choose between sending children to school with winter coats or paying the utility bill on time. In a province as well off as Alberta, no one working full time should have to stop at the food bank on the way home.
That’s why, in just a few weeks, Alberta will implement its final step of a four-year plan to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour.
I’ve been proud to be a member of a cabinet with nurses, teachers, repair technicians and social workers. It’s because our government is made up of ordinary people we know how important this promise is.
Despite what some want you to believe, we know who’s benefitting from the minimum wage increase – women, single parents and families working more than two full time jobs but still struggling to put food on the table.
We also know that not only is a higher minimum wage good for workers, it’s good for the economy as well. Every extra dollar that goes in the pockets of these families gets spent right back in the local economy.
This summer, Alberta had the highest employment rate in the country. Consumer spending is up, retail sales in Alberta were at $6.9 billion in May, higher than the pre-recession peak of $6.7 billion in October 2014. This spring, Albertans spent $795 million at restaurants and bars across the province, bringing restaurant receipts to a record high.
The Conservatives have said time and time again that these hard-working Albertans don’t deserve a raise and that we shouldn’t be making life more affordable for hundreds of thousands of families across the province. They instead want to make things even harder for working people. They want to bring in American style private healthcare and slash funding for the front line services that families rely on.
The Conservatives might have rebranded and they might not talk about mirrors anymore, but they’re still demanding that working Albertans bear the burdens for the elite. Jason Kenney might drive a big truck and wear jeans, but he’s definitely not on the side of everyday families.
I’m proud to support working people in Alberta and it’s clear that our plan is working. Things are looking up in Alberta. Exports are up. Diversification is up. Investment is up. With overall unemployment down to its lowest level in two years, it’s clear that Alberta’s economy is creating good jobs.
The increase to the minimum wage is just one more step in our work to make life better for Albertans.