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Justin Quaintance

U of C Students’ Union debates the impact of a provincial minimum wage increase

By Scott Strasser, October 4 2016 —

The Alberta Ministry of Advanced Education recently asked students’ unions at universities in the province to discuss whether they support an increased minimum wage.

The minimum wage in Alberta rose to $12.20 an hour on Oct. 1. The $1.00 increase was the first step in the New Democratic Party’s plan to raise the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour by 2018.

University of Calgary Students’ Union vice-president external Tristan Bray said discussions within the U of C’s SU focused on how the increased minimum wage would impact university students, not whether they should support it.

“I can’t say whether we will for sure or not, but as of right now we have not taken a public stance,” Bray said. “The provincial government asked us to look into supporting the minimum wage increase. We said we would look into the impacts and then have a further discussion.”

According to information from the University of Alberta Students’ Union, the minimum wage increase will affect 70,200 students across Alberta.

At $12.20 an hour, Alberta now has the third highest minimum wage in the country, behind Nunavut at $13.00 an hour and the Northwest Territories at $12.50 an hour.

Alberta’s minimum wage is slated to rise to $13.60 an hour next year and reach $15.00 an hour by October 2018.

Throughout consultations at the U of C, members of Students’ Legislative Council brought up effects the raise will have on student financial aid, the repayment assistance plan and the Student Temporary Employment Program.

“I think it was really important that we [consulted],” Bray said. “For example, student financial aid came up. Students were worried that, because they would be making more money, they might be eligible for fewer grants or they might receive less in student loans. We don’t know the impact that might have on student financial aid in that matter.”

At the U of A, student representatives were asked to informally vote on whether they supported the increased minimum wage without notice on Sept. 20. Council discussed their position privately but did not come to an official position by the end of the meeting.

In an interview with U of A student magazine the Gateway, U of A SU vice-president external Mike Sandare said a benefit of supporting the increased wage is that it would give the union political capital.

“If we vote ‘yes,’ there’s the possibility that we gain political capital with the government in power,” he said.

Bray said the notion of trying to gain political capital was “bollocks.”

“That is absolutely not in our considerations,” Bray said. “When we look at an issue like this, we’re very focused on the impacts and effects it has on students. It’s not about political capital or anything like that.”

The U of A SU declined interview requests, but a spokesperson said Sandare “misspoke” in his interview with the Gateway.

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