Jason Kenney soon after his election in 2019 when expert panels still seemed like a great way to build a narrative supporting his predetermined policy plans (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

I suppose as good place as any to get back in to the swim of blogging is Friday’s release by Danielle Smith’s United Conservative Party Government of the three-year-old report on the supposed impact of the $15 minimum wage brought in by Rachel Notley’s NDP Government in 2018. 

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

The previous UCP government led by the hapless Jason Kenney, who now seems to have disappeared from the known political universe, got a look at the thing when its authors delivered it back in February 2020, then sat on it until Mr. Kenney was turfed from the premier’s office by the Take Back Alberta rebellion last year.

The government would likely still be sitting on it if Mr. Kenney had somehow managed to hang onto his job after his poor showing in the UCP’s 2022 leadership review vote. 

By March 2020, as readers will doubtless recall, the COVID-19 pandemic was starting to occupy the attention of governments throughout the world to the exclusion of almost everything else. 

By the time the Kenney Government got back to thinking about the report – we don’t actually know if it ever received much attention thereafter – it would have been far too late for a premier already widely disliked by almost all groups of voters to introduce a document bound to be seen as a call to cut wages for a subset of working class jobs held by people hit hard by the pandemic.

The report contains no surprises. It was a typical Kenney Government production, shades of the “Blue Ribbon Panel” that called for cuts to nurses’ pay. The minimum wage “expert panel” was obviously handpicked to be likely to come up with a report that called for policy Mr. Kenney had already decided to implement.

NDP Opposition Leader and former premier Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Even the panel’s conclusion the minimum wage increase led to the loss of jobs among the youngest cohort of workers was predicted by economists who supported the increase as beneficial overall – although the report’s claim the number was as high as 26,000 can certainly be disputed. 

Consider the panel’s makeup. First, there were two economists known to have supported a position similar to the government’s on the impact of minimum wage increases who could be reasonably expected not to change their views. (Similarly qualified economists who would have made recommendations in favour of a higher minimum wage could have been as easily found – there are lots of viewpoints among economists on this particular question.)

Next, there were two representatives of two business lobby groups, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and Restaurants Canada, which can fairly be described the voice of Canada’s fast-food industry. 

Finally there were a couple of friendly local business types and three representatives of restaurant servers, presumably chosen to lend a little working class verisimilitude to the exercise. You can count on it that none of them were barista-union organizers! 

The only mild surprise from the perspective of political strategy is that the government of the leader who replaced Mr. Kenney – Ms. Smith, that is – decided to release it now in the lead-up to another provincial election. 

Economist and minimum-wage panel chair Joseph Marchand (Photo: University of Alberta).

But since the chair of the panel, University of Alberta associate economics professor Joseph Marchand, had been making a fuss about the fact the paper hadn’t been released, they may have concluded the potential for embarrassment from that was greater than anything the rather underwhelming paper might stir up. 

Anyway, the UCP released it on a Friday that happened to be St. Patrick’s Day, when there may have been an assumption in the boozy backrooms of the party’s strategic brain trust – Dan Williams, c’mon down! – that no one would be paying attention. 

Obviously, opponents of the UCP were going to assail the panel’s conclusions – the Opposition NDP certainly did, calling it “a report from their hand-picked panel that recommends wage cuts in Alberta at a time when inflation has reached a 40-year-high and employers are struggling with a labour shortage.”

Jobs, Economy and Northern Development Minister Brian Jean (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

In fairness, the recommendations were made before inflation took off and the labor shortage was fully apparent. 

“If you work a full-time job, you should be able to pay for the basic necessities of life like groceries, rent and utilities, and be able to start putting some money aside for the future,” NDP Leader Rachel Notley said in a statement. “Our Alberta NDP government was proud to make sure more than 150,000 Albertans working in the lowest-wage jobs received a raise in difficult times. Since then, several provinces have followed our lead and raised their minimum wage to $15 or higher.”

“Danielle Smith will use this report to cut the pay of hundreds of thousands of Albertans,” Ms. Notley also argued.

Quite possibly, but not just yet. In the 146-word statement accompanying the release of the report and obviously intended to be quickly forgotten, Jobs, Economy and Northern Development Minister Brian Jean disavowed the whole thing. 

“Alberta’s government has no plans to change the current minimum wage structure or introduce a separate liquor server minimum wage,” he stated. 

NDP Labour Critic Christina Gray (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“My biggest takeaway from the panel report is that making large, unexpected changes to minimum wages can actually hurt employment,” he added, never mind that the increase wasn’t particularly large, certainly wasn’t unexpected and probably didn’t hurt employment over all. “These changes require significant consultation and deliberation” – code for delay, of course.

As NDP Labour Critic Cristina Gray pointed out, the panel “included lobby groups that have fought against every minimum wage increase proposed in the last 50 years.” 

Mr. Jean concluded: “I encourage all those interested to read the report.” He was, presumably, confident almost no one will. 

Nothing to see here folks. Move along please.

NOTE: It was frustrating to see the United Conservative Party mess-ups in the past few days while trying to travel by air in Alberta (a gong show worthy of its own commentary), carrying a computer that was in an uncooperative mood, and contracting an airplane cold – fortunately so far causing no second bar on my COVID tests to show up. Where to start? It was either this or the Tylenot scandal. DJC 

Join the Conversation


  1. DJC..hope you’ve made it home safely and negatively??
    If you do feel achy ,that $80million tylenot, isn’t going to help, I would prescribe my own bartender prescription; a hot toddy, but made with brandy instead of rum,honey and lemon, it was a big hit with the regulars, back in the minimum wage days, when any talk of unions was met with, oh you must be from BC,and agitating…and after telling them I’m born & raised in AB , those tree huggers must have left a bad impression on you..(snicker)
    So does this report have anything to do with the media stories about the 20%+ tipping. It was used as an excuse back in the day, ;’ well you make tips, so we shouldn’t have to pay you more than minimum, count yourself lucky, in the U.S., “baristas ” don’t get a wage’. Oh Canada!!

    As far as flying goes, it’s all JT’S fault, didn’t you know, though for all the frequent flier miles PP puts on you’d never know it…..and for myself & fellow islanders, we didn’t get our wish for heavy fog and now have to fumigate..

    As for Dani’s latest faux pau, more imprecise Twitter language, apology /not apology, but being called out by other police officers for it , just another day in Dani’s world. Though even in the apology post she was using their emblem, but at least it wasn’t PP’S with the thin blue line, coming after a deleted post that smacked of libel. These 2 must use the same comms people, oh right, they do.

    As far as the uncooperative computer, it seems to have been far reaching, had the same problem here, and my B-in-law in Edmonton said cable was out this morning……

    And who knows what the whack-a-doodles have planned for Tuesday…..if I was thinking about praying again, I guess now would be a good time to start.

    Pogo: it will have to be Kris K, or Lenard C…..me thinks, since the lawyers, G&M will be the issue of the day(1989?)..

  2. Follow up…
    Danielle Smith -Dec 17/2021
    “I have in the past argued that there should be a separate minimum wage that is lower for
    someone who has no skills”

    Firstly, well duh ! that’s why it’s called minimum wage, secondly it was put in place because of the rich abusing servant labour, which I’m sure you and the Con party would love to get back to..and if you believe in it so much then are you handing your salary back to Albertans, because, well if the shoe fits….

  3. It’s very sad how people fall for the lies of these pretend conservatives and Reformers. I’m still seeing this and I shake my head at how gullible these people are. These pretend conservatives and Reformers don’t create any jobs, they only destroy them, while they look after their rich friends. When are Albertans going to wake up?

  4. I wonder if the current leadership chose to release the report to remind people what a goofball Jason Kenney was. With Ms. Smith’s gaffes, some UCP members must be having a bit of buyer’s remorse; releasing one of Kenney’s not so good ideas could be an attempt to try and counter their nostalgic memories of our now second worse premier.

    Thanks for mentioning Dan Williams, David. Alberta Views gave a bit of a bio on him when they did a feature on his Peace River riding. It appears he was a Jason Kenney parachute candidate. He was either Kenney’s assistant or his driver, and as such has no real connection to the riding. I expect he must have been wondering about his future when Kenney got turfed. That said, given the area’s opposition to vaccines, let alone vaccine mandates, I expect his loyalty to Kenney was really tested even before the coup.

  5. Where in the world is Jason Kenney? (We’ll beg the question of “Who cares?” for now.)

    My guess: either he’s sulking in Mom’s basement, or out looking for a ghost writer for his memoir (working title: “It’s not fair!”).

  6. Luckily for Alberta’s low-wage workers, the world has been kicked hard by Putin’s war. Nobody in his right mind would argue that workers have to take a pay cut these days.

    There’s no going back from the high inflation we’ve seen in 2022. Despite any wage increases that were grudgingly granted by business owners, wages are still lagging inflation. So much for the ritual fears of a “wage-inflation spiral.”

    It’ll be interesting to see, in the calamitous event of a UCP win, what Danielle Smith does for a follow-up. Will she ask the “blue-ribbon panel” to update their report? Commission an all-new report from the same panel? Find a new collection of fellow-travellers to write a new report? The only certainty is that, if Smith & the Take Back Alberta Party win, low-wage workers will be guaranteed four more years of no raises.

  7. We happened to spot former premier Kennedy in (name withheld) restaurant in Inglewood, Calgary. He looked quite similar to a large, whiskered marmot. I put a looney in his cup.

      1. Auto correct can be nasty! I am certain he aspired to Kennedy-esque heights but alas the wax did melt and he plummeteth earthwards.

  8. Travel by air in Alberta? You are a glutton for punishment. Travel by passenger rail would have been much swifter, except the Conservatives dismantled the prairie branch line rail system after the Liberals had gifted several billion dollars to the rail companies to replace the light rail with heavier steel in the 70s and 80s. Most of those torn up heavy rails went to the US and China to improve their rail systems. I wonder what the scrap value of that $30 billion dollar gift from Ottawa (Trans Mountain Pipeline) to the Tar Sands will be?

    Oh, and speaking of the UCP’s brain trust (shields up!), did the aluminum in that beer can come from one of the several thousand aluminum grain-hopper cars that the Harper Cons sold for scrap? They were designed to be used on the fragile Churchill rail line. Their disposal was part of the Harper Con efforts to cripple and destroy the Canadian Wheat Board. The CWB had used those cars and the grain terminal at Churchill to deliver specialized milling wheat grown on the eastern prairies to millers in Great Britain and Europe. It was a lucrative market for prairie farmers which died with the Wheat Board.

    Fun fact: A small time grain processor in Regina made a great show, with Prime Minister Harper at his side, of announcing he would build a world scale pasta plant as soon as the CWB was gone. That never happened – no new pasta plants or significant expansion of value-adding at all. In fact, the world scale flour milling plant at Medicine Hat closed a year later. However, the Harper Klan thoughtfully gave the Regina vapour-pasta-plant guy the Churchill Grain Terminal, which soon became a stranded asset despite having been upgraded at public expense by Ottawa.

    Does the electoral success of the Harper/UCP Cons and their unpunished destructiveness indicate a certain masochism in Alberta’s culture?

    1. Kang: It’s quite clear (to me, anyway) that Air Canada and WestJet have decided to get rid of unprofitable runs to smaller communities like Grande Prairie and Lethbridge, both of which I visited in the past two weeks, by making service so bad that usage will decline enough to justify cutting the routes. If you want to fly to Saskatchewan from Edmonton or Calgary on Air Canada, you have to fly to Vancouver to change planes. I used WestJet this time to avoid that, but it was no improvement. Eventually I had to hitch a ride with a colleague from Calgary to get to Lethbridge in time for my meeting, since my flight from Calgary was cancelled after its departure time, there were no more flights that night, the next day’s flights were fully booked, there were no cars available to rent and, even if there were, there are no drop-offs allowed in Lethbridge. Seems to me the obvious solutions are create a national or provincial public airline and bus service or allow competition by foreign carriers. We will do neither of those things, of course, and rural Albertans will continue to vote UCP. DJC

  9. Tylenot. That’s the truth- The UCP frankenmed has only 24 mg/ml acetaminophen vrs 32 mg/ml for Canadian authorized products.

  10. There are too many mess-ups to choose from. Also, Danielle Smith kicked off the weekend early by commenting on the gun used by a teen to kill two police officers in Edmonton. Never mind that the police said they wouldn’t be commenting on the firearm right now. Then she used her radio show to announce when the service for the two fallen officers would take place; clarified comment served still warm later. Left to her own devices, the premier can’t resist either lying or leaking. Anything to be the centre of attention. It’s tiresome, tedious, juvenile behavior from a supposed adult who knows no self-restraint.

    In the meantime, her caucus is out of control. It’s as if they want to stir up maximum disrespect for our legislative assembly, taking tips on how to undermine democracy from some right-wing playbook. Chug-a-lug, “props” away. Where is the ALGC when the biggest boozers, in charge of a province, flout the law? Nowhere, of course.

    Ain’t narcissism grand?

  11. “…the hapless Jason Kenney, who now seems to have disappeared from the known political universe…”
    Something you note in a throwaway line, David, but it can’t be celebrated too much.

  12. At this point, I suspect Danielle Smith will just announce that the cost of labour is ‘too damn high’; therefore, for the benefit of those invaluable ‘wealth-creators’, the cost of labour should be rated to zero. Profit will rise forever and the Alberta Advantage has returned.

    It has long been my suspicion that Jason Kenney’s weird minimum policies, which were vetted by the associations representing restaurants, lounges, and hoteliers, were put in place so Kenney and the UCP could eat and drink anywhere in Alberta for free. (Isn’t it great when government policy effectively turns into a free meal ticket and an endless tab?) Since Kenney had no intention of, contrary to his claims, remaining the premier for the long term, he bounced out of Alberta and left an extraordinary mess for the equally hapless Danielle Smith. But I suspect that even Smith and the UCP, despite of their amazing talent for screw ups, will be carried to re-election, thanks to reasons and Jesus.

    I recall the comment made by a colleague from my misplaced time in the RPC, where he said that political parties function similarly to religious cults. There, among the crowd of the like and addle minded, one is exposed to endless news that the leader is divine, the enemy are the Liberals, the party’s mission is sacrosanct, and don’t ever get out of line … heretic. The big problem with the RPC was that many saw it, either, as way to get a political career going, or a religious mission. In any case, the crazy was ramped up and the mayhem cause by the endless in-fighting was impressive. Now, translate that circumstance to the present-day UCP under Danielle Smith and you get a really good notion that this will not end well.

  13. Off topic.
    As a naturally left-handed person in early 1970’s Edmonton public school, my female teacher would force me to sit on my left hand because of some “devil possession” in me.

    Stressful, as I was already pretty good at printing and cursive writing with my left hand.

    It took my father, a basic nerdy white Christian with a chemical science degree to inform the teacher she was misinformed, or he would pursue further action. Not a threat, a solemn indication.

    All is okay; became a graduate of UofC; still left-handed; no devil in me.

    Trust your gut.

  14. The minimum wage report only matters if the NDP use it to increase traction on a public narrative that Smith/UCP are ineffective inefficient uncaring economic stewards.

    I’m unconvinced that the ignorant not-listening or ideologically fixated are moveable on this topic, except Smith/UCP buried it on a Friday…so maybe they are hearing something at the campaign office?

  15. Let’s not forget how much my cost of living continues to go up but my wage hasn’t since 2016. You know because the oil patch wasn’t doing well? I don’t work in the oil patch. It’s doing well now…so pay up. As well no money nothing to spend at your buissiness. Keep in mind who has the disposable cash.how much will govt dish out or continue to to buissiness. And if I’m getting my services cut how much tax money am I getting back?

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