Editorial – Jason Kenney’s vision for Alberta is cheap labour and lax protocols

Tom Henihan

Occupying the Premier’s office has apparently endowed Jason Kenney with the power to give to Albertans while taking things away.

In touting the UCP’s “Open for Business Act,” Kenney asserts that he is contributing to the wellbeing of working Albertans by lowering minimum wage for youth and returning to a system of paying only parity for overtime by rescinding the present system of time-and-a-half for every hour of overtime worked.

“Open for Business Act,” does not mean that Alberta is open in a way that favors working Albertans; it means it is open to large corporations to come and exploit the favorable situation Kenney has created.

It is encouraging to note, that many medium sized, independent businesses in the province have resolved to maintain the status quo and continue to pay their employees $15 an hour, regardless of the employee’s age.

It is primarily the large corporations that make billions of dollars annually, who want to pick the pockets of young workers and use that money to subsidize the hiring of additional staff.

Saying that young people have less financial obligations and therefore should receive less pay is a dangerous argument.

It allows the government to decide, because young people have fewer financial responsibilities or because they spend their money frivolously, they should receive less pay for the work they do.

Pursuing that skewed logic, it should follow that a minimum wage worker with a lot of financial responsibilities should receive more pay.

Imposing what amounts to a variety of means testing to decide how much any age demographic is paid for the work they do, sets a dangerous precedent. Older workers could be next.

Besides, lowering minimum wage for people under eighteen creates an absurd tier system of minimum wage employees and below minimum wage employees.

Lowering the standards and benefits for employees in an effort to create more jobs while also supporting businesses that adamantly oppose paying workers a fair, realistic wage, is hardly progressive.

It appears vindictive, and it doesn’t bode well for a strong, forward-looking Alberta, when one of Kenney’s first undertakings as premier is to impose regressive measures and take away the few advances working Albertans have gained over the past four years.

Staying with the spirit of giving, along with the “Open for Business Act” Kenney also introduced the UCP’s Bill 4, “Red Tape Reduction Act” which is just a ploy to let businesses set up in Alberta without adequate scrutiny and oversight.

What Kenney means when he says, “open for business,” is that he intends to lower the bar significantly and that business should come to Alberta and take advantage.

Even with cutting minimum wage for young workers, rescinding time-and-a-half for overtime, Kenney still has much to give: freezing funding for education and leaving schools to contend with the 15,000 new students and no additional funds.

Kenney’s generosity doesn’t stop there as he also promises a corporate tax cut.

It is predictable, that of all the cuts he proposes making, the tax cut, the only cut that truly gives, will not be going to Albertans but to international corporations.

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