Minimum wage hike on the right track, may need tweaking

I hate being called a taxpayer.

To me, the term carries with it an inherent sense of entitlement. It also makes me think of Rob Ford.

I’ve always preferred the term citizen, because I refuse to allow my role in the community to be defined by how much money I fork over to the government (and what I get in return).

As a citizen, I recognize that my contributions to the government’s tax pool will be spent on things that don’t necessarily benefit me. Take, for example, off-leash dog parks. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t care for canines. But I totally support the government doling out hundreds of thousands of dollars for an off-leash dog park, because it ultimately creates a more livable, vibrant and healthy community.

We now live in a day and age where we have taxpayer associations, which oddly enough always seem to spring up in the most affluent communities.  Because we need nothing more than associations keeping a close eye on how government’s spend money in a community like Strathcona County, which boasts an average family income of roughly $144,000.

Here’s one thing you’re less likely to come across: the single-moms-who-works-two-jobs-and-yet-can-still-barely-afford-to-pay-the-bills association. Thankfully, we have vital non-profit organizations like Families First that step in to look out for this important demographic.

Which brings me to the minimum wage hike.

Listening to either side, the Alberta NDP’s plan to raise the minimum wage in Alberta to $15 an hour will have one of two outcomes. It will either lead to apocalypse, where small businesses will close down and everyone will lose their jobs and Alberta will burst into flames, or alternatively, the hike will herald a golden age of commerce that will inject $1 billion into the economy from increased household spending.

Business leaders are saying the province is enacting the legislation too hastily, which could have some merit. I’ve read about how Seattle enacted a similar $15 minimum wage, but allowed businesses with less than 500 employees to gradually phase in the new wage over the course of seven years.

I’m not an economist. I haven’t done enough research into the subject to definitively say that $15 is the right number, or that the government’s approach is the right one.

What I do know is that no parent working 40+ hours a week should struggle to pay their bills and feed their kids. And I know for a fact that this is the reality for many Albertans today.

Not everyone can attend post-secondary school or training, for various reasons, and not everyone has the ability to acquire a high-paying job. But these citizens are just as important members of our community.

There is a social benefit to ensuring the that the struggling members of a society have the ability to live comfortably. There is no doubt that more money in people’s pockets leads to increased spending, prosperity and overall collective health.

But we need to stop thinking about what “benefit” there is to be gained, individually, from our tax contributions.

For once, let’s just talk about doing the right thing.

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