Labour fed: Conservative policies killed the Alberta wage advantage

It’s official: Alberta is no longer Canada’s wage leader.

Data compiled by Statistics Canada, and released May 6 by the Alberta Federation of Labour, show that average wages in Alberta are now lower than wages in both British Columbia and Ontario.

“When I met with UCP Jobs and Economy Minister Matt Jones in the fall, I warned him that it was going to be on his watch that Alberta would lose its position as Canada’s wage leader,” said AFL president Gil McGowan. “He scoffed at me. But the numbers don’t lie. The UCP has killed the Alberta wage advantage.”

Ten years ago, wages in Alberta were about 20 percent higher than the Canadian average. When the UCP took over in 2019, Alberta wages were still about 7 percent higher than other provinces. But, in the fall of 2023 – almost at the exact time that McGowan was meeting with Jones – both BC and Ontario nudged ahead of Alberta. Ontario and Alberta have subsequently bounced back and forth, but BC has surged ahead.

“The wage advantage that Alberta workers enjoyed for two decades has disappeared. This has happened on the UCP’s watch. And, it’s their fault,” said McGowan.

“The UCP made it easier for employers to avoid paying overtime. They froze the minimum wage for more than five years. They made it harder for workers to join unions. And they’ve kept wage increases for hundreds of thousands of public sector workers below inflation. All of this adds up to a deliberate wage suppression strategy – one that is lowering the standard of living for Albertans at the worst possible time.”

McGowan says Jones told him that he “wasn’t concerned” about Alberta losing its wage advantage because he said Alberta has more jobs and a lower cost of living than other provinces.

“That argument rings pretty hollow, right now,” said McGowan. “After all, we currently have the highest rate of inflation among all provinces while, at the same time, we’re experiencing the slowest rate of wage growth. We’re also experiencing the fastest increases in rents, with apartments in Calgary approaching Toronto prices.”

McGowan concluded by saying that hardworking Albertans are struggling with the rising cost of living and need help from their provincial government, not more wage suppression.

“Here’s the bottom line: Alberta needs workers and workers need a raise that keeps up with inflation. The UCP’s fixation on suppressing wages isn’t just bad for individual workers and their families; it’s also bad for the Alberta economy. Workers with lower wages spend less in the economy and employers who offer lower wages can’t attract or retain the workers they need to grow and thrive. The UCP’s low-wage strategy is hurting us all, and it needs to stop.”

[Photo: AUPE]

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