06/29/2015 12:36 EDT | Updated 06/29/2016 05:59 EDT

Alberta minimum wage to increase by $1 this October

The minimum wage in Alberta is going up by $1 starting this October, with the goal of increasing it to $15 an hour by 2018. 

Minister of Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Lori Sigurdson outlined the changes on Monday morning.  

The changes also affect liquor servers, who will earn an additional $1.50 starting in October. By 2016, they will earn the same wage as other minimum wage earners. Currently, employers in Alberta and several other provinces are allowed to pay liquor servers less than the general minimum wage, on the assumption that they get tips. 

"We believe minimum wage should at least allow people to meet their basic needs," said Sigurdson. 

During the election campaign, Rachel Notley pledged to raise the hourly rate from the current $10.20 to $15, which would take it from the lowest to the highest in Canada. 

Shortly after Notley's NDP won a majority in the provincial election, the government spent two days in June talking to industry representatives, labour and public interest advocacy organizations.

"I guess the best thing that you can say is that it wasn't two dollars," said Ken Kobly, president and CEO of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce who attended Sigurdson's news conference. 

Kobly's organization received 1,600 responses to a survey about the proposed changes. While some said the increase wouldn't affect them at all, many others warned they would have to take action. 

Businesses warn

"You probably will see a reduction in employment, particularly with students," Kobly said.

"The recurring theme that we're hearing from our members is that they'll raise prices wherever they possibly can."

Kobly said the changes will also have an effect on non-profit organizations. Parents who put their children in daycare may also pay higher costs, he added. 

If poverty reduction is the goal, Kobly said the government should consider changes to the Alberta Family Employment
Benefit so people who need help get it. 

Sigurdson said layoffs haven't occurred in U.S. jurisdictions that have gone to a $15 minimum wage. She downplayed concerns that Alberta businesses are expressing. 

"I really feel like that is just a bit of fear-mongering going on in the community," she said. 

Sigurdson did not outline the timeline for when the next bump in minimum wage will come, but said consultations on the increases will continue. 

She said the government is still committed to getting the minimum wage to $15 by 2018.