Businesses are "financially flat on their back."
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said on Tuesday that the province will not be raising its minimum wage, saying it "would probably be the end" for many of the small businesses that are recovering from the pandemic.
Kenney was asked whether Alberta would be raising the minimum wage at a recent press conference after B.C. announced it was increasing its minimum wage to $15.65 an hour — the highest in Canada. Alberta's minimum wage is currently $15 an hour.
"Alberta did increase the minimum wage by 50% in 2016 and did so in the middle of a recession. This resulted in job losses, particularly in the service sector," Kenney said.
He added that "tens of thousands of jobs were lost because employers couldn't afford a 50% increase in wage costs."
The same businesses with minimum wage jobs in the service sector have now been "absolutely devastated through COVID," Kenney said.
"Many of them are financially flat on their back — they got deeply encumbered in debt just to keep the doors open."
Alberta ended most of its COVID-19 restrictions at the beginning of March, and some businesses are only just able to get things back to normal levels, Kenney added.
"I think adding yet another major increase on minimum wage would probably be the end of a lot of these small hospitality businesses that barely survived the pandemic," he said.
"We have to be mindful about the ability of them to bear ever-higher costs, as they are already having to do with food inflation and fuel inflation forcing up prices," he said.
Kenney added the province will likely be facing labour shortages "in the midterm," which would "inevitably" drive up wages.
This article's right-hand cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.
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