Dear Minister Gray:
Vibrant Communities Calgary (VCC) is a non-profit organization guiding the implementation of Enough for All, Calgary’s community-owned poverty reduction strategy. One of the goals in the strategy is that everyone has the income and assets needed to thrive.
For more than a decade, VCC has provided expertise, advocacy and research related to living wages and, for a time, operated the Living Wage Leader program in Calgary, where we recognized employers who paid a living wage. The increase in minimum wage in October to $15 an hour will bring more Albertans that much closer to a living wage that ensures a life of dignity where families can meet their basic needs and participate in their communities.
Though $15 per hour is still $3.15 per hour below what we calculate to be a living wage for a family of four, it is a crucial step in ensuring individuals can rely on their employment earnings to meet their needs. If a person is working full-time at minimum wage, they should not be required to use the food bank.
Your ministry’s own publication, the Minimum Wage Profile, shows us that close to half of all minimum wage earners in Alberta have families to support, and many are the main income earner in their household. Without a doubt, a $15 minimum wage would help families tremendously. Worth our additional attention is the 12 per cent of minimum wage earners who are over the age of 65. Access to a decent hourly wage helps people stay in their communities and afford an increasingly higher cost of living in a booming urban centre. As such, it is imperative that we state our support for a $15 per hour minimum wage and encourage the Government of Alberta to remain committed to this goal.
From our conversations with community members, and our work with stakeholders implementing the Enough for All strategy, we are gaining a better understanding of the realities of people behind the numbers. Many are struggling to pay for housing, and this includes minimum wage earners. Many are having to make difficult decisions on whether to pay for their utility bill or groceries, and when it comes to an unexpected medical expense many do without proper care.
An increase in income for those employed and living paycheque to paycheque will build on our efforts to reduce poverty. Although Alberta has many community organizations providing a broad range of programs and services aimed at helping people living on low incomes, there is little that compares to the dignity of a good day’s work that put money directly into people’s pockets, so they can adequately provide for their families.
We applaud your decision to proceed with the minimum wage increase on October 1st, 2018.