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Graduated minimum wage an unpopular idea

A graduated minimum wage, which could see alcohol servers and youth making a lower wage than others, has taken some flak from St. Albertans.

A graduated minimum wage, which could see alcohol servers and youth making a lower wage than others, has taken some flak from St. Albertans.

The idea was floated by Alberta’s opposition leader Jason Kenney in a speech on Tuesday at a restaurant owners event in Edmonton put on by industry advocacy group Restaurants Canada.

Kenney said the move would help restaurants keep their doors open and allow them to hire more people.

“I always talk to the servers (when dining out). And every single one I’ve talked to in the past two-plus years across this province says they would rather have extra hours than an extra buck-fifty as a base wage,” Kenney said Tuesday.

The Gazette asked residents this week what they thought of the idea of a graduated minimum wage. Most said they don't support the idea.

Dave Huget said he believes a graduated minimum wage is discrimination.

“Why should a 17-year-old student working beside a 30-year-old doing the exact same job make less money?” Huget asked.

Tracey Barnett Kinniburgh said that she doesn’t mind paying more money when she dines out to know that her server is making a “real wage” rather than “subsidize someone’s bad business plan by having workers earn less than a living wage and qualify for social programs.”

Resident Kevin Malinowski said there needs to be a better system to tax tips rather than reduce the minimum wage servers make.

“Wages should be based on the job and not the age of the employee. (This would be) teaching young adults that the government doesn't believe that they are worth as much as a voting adult,” Malinowski said.

Other St. Albert residents agreed with Kenney, who said the graduated wage would help get young people back to work.

"How about we have a government that says it is going to be focused on getting these young people back to work through the industry most likely to hire them by allowing you to do so with a youth employment wage? I think that makes a lot of sense,” Kenney said.

One resident said he feels minimum wage is already high enough.

“Minimum wage should have never got to $15 in the first place,” Shane Wold said.

The provincial minimum wage has increased significantly since the NDP won power in 2015. When they formed government, the minimum wage was at $10.20, and in the four years they have been in power it has increased to $15.

Jennifer McCurdy, CEO of the St. Albert Chamber of Commerce, declined to comment on the issue, stating that the organization is non-partisan and does not speak about any political platform policies.

Jennifer Henderson

About the Author: Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson is the editor of the St. Albert Gazette and has been with Great West Media since 2015
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