Albertans deserve a higher minimum wage

Re: The price of a tipping wage FFWD Aug 11-17 2011

I would suggest that the discussion about the two-tiered minimum wage is a red herring. Certainly for low-income workers the cumulative impact of 35 cents per hour will be felt. However the larger issue is that both $9.05 and $9.40 per hour are patently inadequate to meet the costs of living in Alberta. Risible amounts aside the minimum wage is a blatant example of a government policy creating and maintaining poverty. The living wage promoted by the Vancouver Community College Vibrant Communities Calgary on the other hand is for all intents and purposes what the minimum wage should be. It is not ideal but it is a good starting point and a minimum wage that is also a living wage would help set the foundations for the economic security social inclusion and authentic participation of lower-paid members of the post-industrial working class.

Admittedly by themselves minimum and living wages as anti-poverty measures are blunt policy instruments. Obviously however there is no one solution to poverty. Therefore wages need to be supplemented by other social policy initiatives and financial mechanisms to ensure that working individuals can escape the dignity-robbing morass of poverty. Some examples of these policy initiatives include an affordable housing strategy the provision of quality affordable and accessible child care pharmacare comprehensive dental health programs and affordable post-secondary education. The point is that we can reduce poverty if we choose to.

Now I am certain that some in the business community will bray against any intervention in the free market. They will argue that competitiveness will be hampered and profits will plunge. However I am also sure that there were some unhappy cotton plantation owners in South Carolina in 1865 when their economic relations were restructured. The bottom line is that there is a cost to justice and social inclusion and living wages are a price we need to pay to meet some of those costs.