By J.W. Schnarr
Adults trying to raise children on minimum wage jobs should find “better” jobs, and young people don’t need to earn as much as adults in the job sector.
Those were two surprising comments from Vauxhall council during a discussion on the provincial government’s plan to raise minimum wage.
During their regular meeting on Monday, council addressed a letter from Tyrel McLelland regarding the issue.
McLelland is the chair of the Taber Regional Joint Economic Development Committee and the president of the Taber and District Chamber of Commerce. He has also been an outspoken critic of the wage hike, and has met with local MLAs and been vocal on social media in regards to the issue.
“Minimum wage is for kids with their after school jobs,” said Deputy Mayor Richard Phillips. “They don’t need $15 an hour.”
“Kids don’t, but the adults who make $10 an hour (it’s more difficult for them),” said Mayor Margaret Plumtree.
“Those adults have to go find better employment,” replied Phillips.
In a letter from the JEDC, McLelland indicated the increase has “raised concerns over how it will affect local businesses in the long term.” He noted the issue was raised at a JEDC meeting on June 25, and at that point Municipal District of Taber Reeve Brian Brewin made a motion for the JEDC to write a letter that could be used at the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) and Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) to request the Alberta government re-evaluate the increase.
Phillips said there is no way to support the wage hike financially, likening the philosophy to that of a “welfare state.”
“Plain and simple,’ he said. “It all sounds good that you are going to have a welfare state and take care of everybody, because we’ll give everybody $100,000 a year, but it’s got to come from somewhere.”
He went on to say some jobs are not worth a higher minimum wage, and indicated the number of people supporting families on those lower paying jobs could be quite low.
“There are jobs out there that aren’t $15 an hour jobs,” he said. “The premise that people are trying to support people on minimum wage, that may be true in some cases, but it shouldn’t be true for the most part. And raising the minimum wage is going to impact business, because you can’t afford to pay the kid (Phillips then made a mocking voice of a teenage fast food worker taking an order) $15 an hour,”
Plumtree joked the teenage worker would “get the order wrong anyway.”
Coun. Linda English said the move would have more impact on some businesses than others.
“I think it’s going to affect the smaller businesses,” she said. “Not so much the bigger ones.”
“It affects everyone,” replied Plumtree. “The bottom line, whatever your expenses are, the way I see it, it’s just always been a circle. Minimum wage goes up, and everything else goes up.”
“It will never be fair,” said Coun. Christie Sorensen. “It will never work for everybody, no matter what they do.”
Plumtree said some of the discussion involved the possibility of having a two-tiered wage, including a higher wage for adults and a lower wage for young people.
“We never did come up with a solution ourselves when we were discussing it,” she said.
She added the motion was intended to try and get the provincial government to re-evaluate the wage hike, not necessarily to reverse the plan.
“With the way the motion is made, we’re not saying it shouldn’t happen, or that we think it should happen,” she said. “We’re saying to re-look at it before you go forward with it.”
Following discussion, Coun. Marilyn Forchuk made a motion to instruct administration to pass on a letter of support for the resolution, which passed unanimously. Coun. Martin Kondor was absent during the meeting.