Saturday, February 12, 2005


Well our tubby Premier showed the other night that he listens and hears Albertans. Of course he has been deaf to the screams of pain of Martha and Henry for years, but 2005 is the provinces birthday, and being a magnanimous ruler, King Ralph has decided to throw a few crumbs to the “little people”. With Ralph it’s never a royal proclamation it’s always a thought, a suggestion, an idea, he will test the waters see the response and if the fishing looks good he will throw out the line, hook and sinker.

In his first of three “State of the Province” on TV, Alberta is looking more American all the time, he made three suggestions;

That for this year universities and colleges should send the bill for any tuition increases to the government.

That perhaps Alberta, being the richest province in Canada and having a record oil boom, should not have the lowest minimum wage in the country, and perhaps, if business likes the idea (oh please) he would increase the minimum wage from below $6 an hour to $7 an hour.

That maybe it would be a nice birthday present for the province if he proclaimed September 1 as an annual provincial holiday, to celebrate our centennial. That would give Albertans a four day long weekend on the years that it coincided with the Labour Day long weekend.

Oh the howling of the corporate bosses could be heard across the province. The fax machines were clicking faster then a pair of wind up joke teeth. The calculators were out and it was declared that a day off for Albertans would cost almost a billion dollars in lost surplus value (the business folks call this euphemistically ‘productivity’, we know it as ‘profit’) and then some for having to pay the wage slaves that would still be forced to work this holiday at time and a half wages.

Heck they didn’t have time to calculate the impact of the minimum wage increase on their profit; they just knew that Ralph was leaving their pockets a bit lighter.

While an increase to $7 an hour would finally end Alberta’s position as the Ebenezer Scrooge of Canada having the lowest minimum wage even behind the poorest province in Canada, Newfoundland, it still is not a Living Wage.

General Minimum Wage Rate

Differential Minimum Wage Rate

British Columbia


$6.00 for first 500
hours of work








$7.00 ($7.25 April 1, 2005)



$7.15($7.45 February 1, 2005)

$6.70 for students ($6.95 February 1, 2005)
$6.20 for liquor servers($6.50 February 1, 2005)


$7.45 ($7.60 May 1, 2005)

$6.70 for workers receiving gratuities ($6.85 May 1, 2005)

New Brunswick



Nova Scotia


$6.05 for inexperienced workers

Prince Edward Island



& Labrador

$6.00 ($6.25 June 1, 2005)


Northwest Territories









Note: For workers in federal jurisdiction industries, the minimum wage is the general adult minimum wage rate of the province or territory where the work is performed.

Pretty embarrassing for a province that has declared massive surpluses every year for the last decade and has declared itself debt free! Albertans need a Living Wage not a minimum wage that barely catches up to Manitoba or Ontario, let alone B.C. all provinces that have massive deficits and debt. Day Care workers in Alberta working with ‘society’s most precious resource’, as the right wing likes to remind us, barely make over minimum wages. Workers in the service sector, those not in construction or other unionized jobs, make minimum wages and are expected to earn more from tips, again a tax on the consumer not the business.

But before the Red Flag of Socialism is raised at the Legislature, let’s look at what really would help Martha and Henry. In Alberta the Edmonton Social Planning Council has determined that to be able to live at the national poverty level using a basket of goods purchasing model that wages would have to be $10 an hour. That’s a Living Wage.

And further employers should have to pay full costs for health care, extended health benefits, and provide a transferable pension for all full and part time workers in Alberta. That’s the position the IWW, Industrial Workers of the World, has taken over the issue of what should be the base rate of pay for all workers, full time or part time, in Alberta.

And while Ralph is suddenly the new found friend of the working class, let us not forget that disabled Albertans have to live on $850 a month, in the form of AISH payments, any more income and it gets clawed back. They have not had a cost of living increase in ten years! In fact if they were able to work, at minimum wage in Alberta they would only make $860 a month!

During the November election, a meaner, nastier, Ralph Klein did his Ebenezer Scrooge imitation in stating that disabled protestors “looked able enough” to him and any increase they got would probably be spent on “booze and cigarettes”. Not satisfied with kicking off his election campaign by kicking the poor and disabled, he went north to boom town Grand Prairie and told the Chamber of Commerce, his kind of Albertans that “Severely normal Albertans” don’t care about AISH or the disabled. That was an election ‘Opp’s’ heard across the country. And even now his royal highness still has not done anything to address this glaring inequity.

The response from the labour movement has been skeptical, and it should be, Albertans of all walks of life should be demanding that Ralph show us the MONEY. It is after all our money, made by working people without which not a single drop of oil would be extracted, refined or exported. It is our low wages that have made the business folks rich, and allowed the government its surplus.

Ten years ago King Ralph declared a province wide wage freeze on public sector workers, and demanded roll backs to pay off the deficit we had not created. The deficit was the result of his governments poorly planned business investments, and the massive tax holiday they gave to the oil companies. And Albertans were lectured by Ralph then about tightening our belts and renovating our house. Now that he and his business friends have had a decade dining at the table of the Alberta boom, the least he could do is end his career as he began it, being the populist beer hall politician of the common volk.

An extra day off and a pay increase, now that’s worth celebrating along with the provinces birthday, maybe we could afford to buy some booze from the privatized liquor store around the corner, to toast with.

Globe and Mail, Friday, February 11, 2005 - Page A5

CALGARY -- These are heady days for the working stiff in Alberta.

Premier Ralph Klein, who long scoffed at the idea of raising Alberta's minimum wage of $5.90 an hour -- the lowest in the country -- suddenly announced this week the oil-rich province would raise it to $7.

And now, he's musing about declaring Sept. 1 a statutory holiday to celebrate the province's centennial. Heck, Mr. Klein told a befuddled business audience in Edmonton this week, this one-time-only day off could mean a five-day weekend if workers also take off Sept. 2, a Friday, and return after Labour Day Monday.

Corporate Alberta wants to know what happened to Mr. Pro-business: A Premier best known for cutting funding and downsizing jobs. Has Mr. Klein gone soft during his fourth and final term? Or is he continuing his well-honed practice of shooting from the lip?

"My main objection is he's creating a political benefit and imposing a private-sector cost," said Dan Kelly, western vice-president for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, a lobby group for small and medium-sized companies.

There would be a $712-million loss in productivity for the day off, according to Mr. Kelly. He reached this conclusion by dividing the province's gross domestic product by the number of working days a year.

That doesn't include the potential additional wage cost of $133-million if Alberta businesses stayed open and pay time and a half for those stuck on the job, he pointed out. And the higher minimum wage could place undue burdens on small businesses, force some out of business and drive wage inflation in the province, he added.

"The political advantages are very clear," Mr. Kelly said. "Who wouldn't want an extra day off? Who wouldn't want lower wage earners to make a little bit more? But he shouldn't be making public policy at press conferences."

Mr. Klein has promised to consult with business before government approves a new statutory holiday, which was brought to cabinet by Community Development Minister Gary Mar, but clearly he's already feeling the heat.

"The danger of floating an idea is that you get a lot of static and that's what it is -- an idea and you shouldn't get static over an idea," Mr. Klein told reporters yesterday. "You shouldn't get static over a thought, and it's not even my thought. It's the minister's thought."

He said he's not so sure he even supports it.

"I don't get holidays," Mr. Klein said. "Really. I mean I work stat holidays and so I can't say that I'm personally in favour or not in favour."

But Dan MacLennan, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, who has butted heads with the Premier over the years during collective bargaining for his 60,000 members, has already written to Mr. Klein to lend the idea support.

"We're waiting to see if it happens," Mr. MacLennan said, ". . . He's surprised people before."

John Carpay, Alberta's head of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, has some better ideas for birthday presents to Albertans as the province gets ready to announce close to a $6-billion surplus for 2005.

"There's absolutely no reason why this government can't give back $4.8-billion it collected in personal income tax last year," Mr. Carpay said.

Or better still, it could abolish health-care premiums for all Albertans, he added.

An extra day off in September could cause confusion in Lloydminster, which straddles the Alberta-Saskatchewan boundary.

Already, some townsfolk, but not all, take Alberta's Family Day holiday in February. Different drinking ages in each province and anti-smoking laws also create problems in Lloydminster.

"That's just a norm for our city," Mayor Ken Baker said. "We're just used to it."

Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert has been prodded about announcing a one-time-only holiday this year as his province also celebrates 100 years in Confederation.

"No, we're not looking seriously at having a day off," said government spokesman Jay Branch.

"But I'm thinking of moving there just so I can have a day off, too," he added, with a laugh.


eugene plawiuk said...

Push on for February long weekendLast Updated Mon, 21 Feb 2005 11:43:56 EST
CBC News

HALIFAX - A backbench politician from Nova Scotia wants to give her province a long weekend in February, joining the chorus of Canadians clamouring for a midwinter break.

Albertans already enjoy such a holiday, and have done so since 1989. The third Monday in February is Family Day in that province, giving many people a statutory holiday "to recognize the values held by the pioneers who built Alberta and the values of home and family."

That same day is also a national holiday in the United States, marked as Presidents' Day.

Business group says companies would lose

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business warns that an extra holiday in the year could mean losses for companies.

"From a business perspective it really is a lose-lose situation for them," said Leanne Hachey, the group's Nova Scotia director.

"If they don't open up, they're losing money that's not coming in. If they do open up, they're paying more to be open that day."

But Whalen said giving Nova Scotians an extra day off in February to sit at home or go to the ski hill would help businesses because productivity goes up when workers are rested.

eugene plawiuk said...


Family Day, February 21, 2005

Alberta Families say: Show Us the Money, Ralph

Despite his public musings, Ralph Klein has yet to formally announce any sharing of the wealth with Martha, Henry and their family. Albertans and their families need a Living Wage, not just an increase in the minimum wage of a mere $1.10 after ten years. Alberta still has the lowest minimum wage in Canada and even an increase to $7 will still leave us behind B.C., Ontario and Quebec.

National and Regional Social agencies have calculated that the average person needs a Living Wage of $10 per hour just to be able to reach the national poverty level, $7 an hour doesn't even get close. In Alberta there are over 140,000 workers making minimum or just above minimum wages, and many are trying to support families on this. The IWW also believes that both part time and full time workers in Alberta should have full access to benefits paid for by their employer, these include extended health, dental, eye and hearing, benefits plus a transferable pension plan.

Alberta Families deserve their share of the Federal Day Care fund, they paid for it they want it and need it. The Klein government’s insistence on using taxpayer money to benefit private for profit day cares denies Alberta families access to affordable public day care. It also denies day care workers a Living Wage. Currently many child care workers in Alberta make barely above the minimum wage of $5.90 an hour. Parents are forced to work shift work in order to take care of their children at home, due to the lack of public day care spaces. Parents working two jobs each, just to make ends meet are being left out of the “Alberta Advantage”.

Alberta has the lowest use of public day care in Canada, because the Alberta Government has allowed private for profit day care centres and baby sitting services to access funds earmarked for public day care. Alberta families are paying for someone to profit off their plight and without access to Federal funds, they will be paying twice for the privilege of having no access to public day care.

Ralph dropped health care premiums for Alberta’s Seniors, now it is time to share the wealth with Alberta Families, health care premiums are an unfair tax on all Albertans and should be eliminated. The premiums do not pay for health care; they are paid into the provinces general accounts, that account just paid Ralph’s election campaign manager, Steve West a golden handshake of $180,000. In a province that has eliminated taxes for businesses it is time that Alberta Families got a tax break with the elimination of the health premium.

Alberta Families continue to pay for tuition increases for their children. Alberta Families deserve more than a one year tuition moratorium, we need an immediate roll back of tuition increases and the elimination of all tuition fees within five years. As post secondary education benefits society and business, it is both business and the government that should fully fund post secondary education. That would be a real Alberta Advantage.

Albertans take care of their severely disabled family members with little help from the Alberta Government which has not increased AISH payments in ten years. Again federal funds are taken by the Alberta government and not shared with Albertans. AISH payments need to meet the Living Wage standard as well. At the current rate of $850 per month, AISH is ten dollars less than an Albertan working full time for minimum wage makes in a month.

Alberta Families are not just Martha and Henry, but also Martha and her kids, and those who live on social assistance have not seen an increase in their financial support from the province while politicians have given themselves hefty wage increases in the past few years. Single mothers and others on social assistance should have their share of the Alberta Advantage by having their payments set to a Living Wage.

Alberta Families are also Henry and Henry, Martha and Martha, Ralph’s cheap politicking against Same Sex Marriage does a disservice to the diversity of Alberta Families. It’s the height of hypocrisy that this provincial government continues to deny human rights to its citizens. Any legal challenge is another waste of Alberta taxpayer’s money, and will end up being a lot of bluster and thunder signifying nothing, as the Vriend case proved.

This Family Day it’s time that all Albertans shared in the Alberta Advantage, while business has reaped the most from Alberta’s flat tax, Alberta Families pay the majority of taxes in the province to make up for it. It’s time we benefited from the Alberta Advantage which so far has only benefited Ralph and his friends.


Industrial Workers of the World
“The working class and the employing class have nothing in common”
Edmonton General Membership Branch
PO Box 75175, Edmonton T6E 6K1
Web Page:

eugene plawiuk said...

Canadian Economic Observer November 2004
Statistics Canada

Social Asistance by Province, 1993-2003
Alberta was the polar opposite of Newfoundland in consistently having the lowest rate of social assistance.
Its 70.5% drop in the number of people on social assistance between 1993 and 2003 drove the rate down to just 1.8%. In 1993, it was already the second lowest in Canada at 7.4% (only Saskatchewan was lower at 6.8%). The rate dropped abruptly in 1994 and 1995, to 5.2% and 4.2% respectively, followed by more gradual declines (in fact, it was the only province to
post an increase in 2003).
While Alberta’s job growth for the whole period was by far the strongest in Canada, with jobs up by a third, the gains in 1994 and 1995 were unexceptional. Neither were the reductions in benefit levels markedly
different from the other provinces, as Alberta had already made the largest cuts well before 1993,
especially for single people. Their benefits were cut by half in 2003 compared to 1986, the biggest decline
among provinces. Alberta did have the lowest rate of single people on social assistance from 1993 until 2000.

eugene plawiuk said...

"Families almost have to have two incomes, and single parent families are struggling even more, juggling several part time jobs."

But Lou-Anne Regnier, a social worker with the Calgary Health Region Family Adolescent and Childrens' Services, says strong families, even those who are struggling, will still find time to be with each other.

"We live in a very hectic society, and parents do want everything for their children.

"But successful families still find that time for each other no matter what. You have to have excellent organizational skills.

"And if there is a divorce we have to let children know it is never their fault."

With kids . . . Alberta families consisting of legally married couples with children. 44.3%

No kids . . . Alberta families consisting of couples, married or common-law, with no children 36.5%


Alberta families (with children) with two or more income earners. 86%


Alberta divorce rate is among the highest in the country, behind only Quebec and the Yukon. 41.9%

eugene plawiuk said...

Alberta families break stereotypes -- but not values
Economic realities in Canada have forced some to look beyond the traditional two-parent, two-children definition

Eva Ferguson
Calgary Herald

Monday, February 21, 2005

As Alberta families come together to skate, ski or just sit down for a meal today, increasingly fewer of them will fit the traditional mould of two married adults with children.

And most of them will be working harder, playing less and taking fewer holidays than ever before.

According to a recent report released by the Vanier Institute of the Family, only 41 per cent of Canadian families consist of a husband, wife and at least one child.

With this group now making up less than half of all families across Canada, the majority today are a mix of lone-parent families, divorced parents with shared custody, blended families with children from a previous marriage, or couples without children.

The report, called Profiling Canada's Families III, based on Statistics Canada data collected between 2001 and 2004, says that while Alberta stands as a province with one of the highest percentages of legally married couples with children, they still make up significantly less than half at 44.3 per cent.

But Alan Mirabelli, Vanier's executive director of administration and communication, warns the changing dynamics don't necessarily point a downward spiral in social values.

Young couples are choosing to have kids later in life, when their finances are more stable, he says.

Some even choose to never have kids.

In fact, couples without children, married or common-law, made up the second largest grouping in the Vanier report, totalling 36.5 per cent of all families.

Mirabelli explains that most of the time, when couples do have kids, both parents end up working simply because they have to -- just to pay the mortgage, put money away for their kids' education, their retirement or to splurge on a holiday now and then.

"Modern life is making incredible demands on people -- especially young people. Economic growth is a reality, someone has to pay for it," says Mirabelli. "And there are all kinds of stresses that come with that."

Parents are working harder too, the report says, opting for more paid employment outside of the home bringing the percentage of families with two or more income earners to record levels.

Some 84 per cent of families with children now have two or more income earners, with Alberta scoring third-highest in the country at 86 per cent.

In fact, according to a report released last summer, Albertans are among the worst workaholics in the country, logging more hours and less holiday time than other Canadians.

The Ipsos-Reid poll found 58 per cent of workers in the province do not use all the holiday time they are entitled to, well above the average 38 per cent of Canadians who don't take all of their vacation days.

The hard work ethic may be splitting some families as well, with Alberta's divorce rate among the highest in the country at 41.9 per cent, behind only Quebec and the Yukon, says the Vanier report.

Diana Gibson, research director for the Parkland Institute, says despite Alberta's booming economy, a growing number of families are struggling to make ends meet, working multiple jobs, leaving little quality time for each other.

"Families almost have to have two incomes, and single parent families are struggling even more, juggling several part time jobs."

But Lou-Anne Regnier, a social worker with the Calgary Health Region Family Adolescent and Childrens' Services, says strong families, even those who are struggling, will still find time to be with each other.

"We live in a very hectic society, and parents do want everything for their children.

"But successful families still find that time for each other no matter what. You have to have excellent organizational skills.

"And if there is a divorce we have to let children know it is never their fault."

With kids . . . Alberta families consisting of legally married couples with children. 44.3%

No kids . . . Alberta families consisting of couples, married or common-law, with no children 36.5%


Alberta families (with children) with two or more income earners. 86%


Alberta divorce rate is among the highest in the country, behind only Quebec and the Yukon. 41.9%