Editorial – Kenney performs as usual

Jeff Burgar

A few years ago, when Jason Kenney was federal Immigration Minister, he didn’t care a farfle about Alberta businesses crying for staffing help. Today, he frets Alberta businesses can’t afford minimum wages. Seriously? Now he says he doesn’t like $15.00 per hour. So what number does he like? $14.00 per hour? $11.00? $8.00? Wage earners trying to put food on the table or beef up their family income should be thinking about this. Remember, there is an election coming.

Kenney thinks you are not paying attention. Or even have a memory. Minimum wage earners are famous for not voting. That is correct, if the average minimum wage earner is an 18 year-old student working his or her way to a better job.

Some sources say the average minimum wage worker is female. An adult. A single mom or a mom trying to supplement her partner’s wage. She is working in a low skilled position, like waitressing or clerking in a store. Information about these voting habits is unknown.

On the other hand, business owners do vote. They often donate to political parties. They talk about the candidates and policies they like. A lot of these folks don’t like the minimum wage hikes put in by the New Democrats.

Now, no matter what you might say about business, at the end of the day it is the customer who pays one way or another. Business owners faced with higher costs, such as an increase in wages they have to pay, usually take a hit on their profits. If they have profits, that is. Then they try to pass the higher costs on to customers, in the form of higher prices. If nothing works, they close their doors. No matter which way you look at it, customers suffer. Either they pay higher prices, they change their shopping habits, or they have to shop elsewhere. Sometimes miles away.

The main point is, nobody for sure knows what raising minimum wage does. Alberta is not alone. There are many places it’s been done. Good or bad here or there? There are many opinions, but few facts. Nobody is really sure if, in the long run, most people and businesses are better off, worse off, or pretty well the same.

In a snapshot of time however, you can bet the answer is straightforward. Wage earners don’t want to take a cut. Business owners want to see their bottom line improve. Nothing wrong with any of that.

It might be fair to note, many wage earners would take a wage cut if it meant their jobs would be saved. And many businesses would see profits drop rather than lose valuable staff. It is definitely not a winner take all mentality out there.

Meanwhile, that’s where Kenney is taking us. One against the other. Business against labour.

And sadly, without any explanation or evidence or proof that lowering wages, and by how much, is the best thing to do.

Jason Kenney is not noted as a deep-thinker. This is one case where he continues his usual, catering to somebody, some place, or some interest group. He’s done it before. Sadly, there is no proof such knee-jerk, flavour of the day talky talky chasing votes does our province and its people any good at all.


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