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Businesses worried about fallout from minimum wage increase

Some local business owners are concerned about the potential for rising costs associated with the increase to Alberta’s minimum wage. Ole Smokes Coffee started its workers at $15 an hour when it first opened in March and the minimum wage was $13.60 an hour.

Alberta has gradually hiked its minimum wage from one of the lowest in the country at $10.20 an hour in 2015 to the highest at $15. Ole Smokes Operations Manager Tyra Borden worries the cost of other things in Grande Prairie will increase for her employees at the same time.

“I think for them $15 is good but I still know that they struggle just because as the oil booms in this town, rental costs and stuff like that go up a little bit more. It’s a good wage but with everything else going up it ends up not being a good wage.”

It’s been almost five weeks since minimum wage increased for the final time to $15. The Alberta government says the goal is to give those in the service industry the ability to better support themselves and their families.

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Victoria’s Attic Owner Alison Gustafson says she has always paid her workers more than minimum wage. However, she says the increase to the minimum wage is also difficult for her because she might have to pay them even more to stay competitive.

“For my employees if they were making minimum wage or if they were making this much above minimum wage before they might think that they should be getting this much above minimum wage.”

While it may be too soon to tell what the full effect of the overall increase might be, Grande Prairie District Chamber of Commerce Chair Cris Seppola believes local businesses will do whatever it takes to make sure people keep their jobs.

“I think that the effect on the region remains to be seen, to be honest. I do know that businesses want to keep their employees, they want to treat them well, they want to be providing jobs for our community… I think business owners will work to keep people employed as much as possible.”

While Seppola says she’s not really concerned about any local businesses closing because of the increase, she says consumers should be prepared to pay more because of it.

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