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Wednesday, 04 November 2015 13:58

Conservative ideology has taken a toll on Alberta

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Recently on the Prairie Post Opinion Page was a contribution written by Grant Hunter, Wildrose MLA from Cardston-Taber-Warner.
In it, he tells of a tour he took to find out how small businesses were planning to cope with the newly-elected NDP government’s move to mandate higher minimum wages in our province. Reading his thoughts on the subject prompted me to imagine some alternatives to his analysis and perhaps get him and other critics of the new minimum wage guidelines to move beyond their knee-jerk reactions.

I’m sure we all are aware of the great disparity that exists between the income of Canada’s working poor and those at the upper levels of corporate administration. If you are reading this, you are likely savvy enough to do the math to work out the order of magnitude of that disparity. There are hundreds of thousands of minimum-wage earners working for large corporations, be they clerks, security guards or janitorial and maintenance workers. This however, is not the group of employers Mr. Hunter is concerned about.
It is the small local businesses including farmers who hire seasonal labourers with just a small handful of employees that he feels are being victimized by higher minimum wages. I understand his and their concerns, but I think there are some aspects of this problem that have been overlooked.
Minimum wage earners are also consumers of goods and services. The more money they earn, the more goods and services they can buy and by extension the more sales taxes and perhaps some income taxes they will also contribute. Automating some of the mindless work associated with any business is a good idea. Couple this with in-house training of entry-level employees should have as an objective, to make those employees more productive and responsible. They need to know that as an employee they become a member of a team whose prime objective is to help make the business that pays their salary to be as successful as possible.
Higher minimum wages don’t have to cripple a business, but it may be necessary to be more creative in the way the owner and his/her staff deals with challenges to their success. When I first entered the work force many years ago the minimum wage in Alberta was 75 cents per hour. An ice cream cone or an O’Henry chocolate bar each cost about 10 cents. Today many of the businesses who sell such “necessities” are still in business by doing what they had to do to maintain profitability.
NDP ideology is not what is killing small businesses. The killer is people who insist on doing business the same old way in an ever-changing world. This applies to both small local businesses and big international corporations. I have observed that often the most ardent opponents to raising the minimum wage are also opposed to government welfare programs to help the poor in our society, especially welfare for those who are willing and able to work. It is a societal problem that we all need to focus on to resolve.
In looking for solutions to economic problems, one of the biggest flaws in Conservative ideology is an absence of inclusiveness. The whole human race and all other living organisms are passengers on this spaceship we call Mother Earth. We all have a vested interest in our planet’s success. That success is diminished by marginalizing the politically weakest fellow travellers.
We are also in need of a new ideology that will facilitate making governments more efficient, productive and caring. Over and above that, we need to realize we are all a part of Mother Earth’s family. Any human activity that damages, denigrates or marginalizes any part of society or our ecosystem is a violation of our stewardship of Spaceship Earth and her passengers, big or small, powerful or weak.
Egotism, selfishness and greed are our greatest weaknesses as human beings. Eliminating these three traits would go a long way to eliminating the need to impose minimum-wage laws.
Earl Shields, Pincher Creek

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor