If you didn’t know better, you might think United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney cared about ensuring Albertans are paid a living wage. Take his recent Facebook post, in which he expressed dismay at the pace of Alberta’s wage gains last year, which was slower than in other provinces.
The problem is, though, that throughout his federal and provincial political career Jason Kenney has been a loud cheerleader for keeping wages low, in both the public and private sectors.
Take Alberta’s recent minimum wage increase to $15 per hour — that’s hardly a champagne and caviar salary, and is barely enough to make ends meet even at full time hours, but for Kenney the move was too much.
Instead, he would bow to pressure from business interests and has pledged to bring back lower wages for servers and youth workers. He has also said he would freeze the minimum wage, which affects workers from all sectors and all walks of life across the province. If Kenney is disappointed in the rate of Alberta’s wage gains, why has he taken aim at the province’s minimum wage and pledged to push wages down for workers here?
The fact is that Kenney has never shown a serious interest in maintaining adequate wages for workers in Canada. As a federal cabinet minister in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, Kenney was responsible for changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program that allowed employers to pay vulnerable migrant workers up to 15-per-cent less than the wages earned by others in the area for the same work. The move had the clear effect of pushing down wages for all workers, so why should anyone believe Kenney suddenly cares about increasing the wages for average Albertans?