Alberta Election

Retail is the largest private sector employer in Alberta.

Find out why #RetailMatters to Albertans.


10.6%
of Alberta’s workforce works in Retail. That’s 247,100 Albertans.

17,540+
storefronts in Alberta

64%
of retailers are small businesses


$10.6 Billion
in total annual salaries paid

$25.93/HR
Alberta’s average hourly compensation in retail

$47.7 Billion
in Core Retail Sales

Source: Stats Canada

Why Alberta Retail Matters

Calgary skyline

When your local candidates knock on your door or you meet them at an event, take time to share your experiences and the pride you have for Alberta’s retail industry.

Be sure to also let them know that you are part of Alberta’s largest private employment sector, and that retail also has a significant impact on the success of several other industries, such as transportation, construction, property management, information technology and financial services.

Here are some ideas that you can share with your candidates while spreading the word about retail:

  • Nearly one in every ten jobs in Alberta is in retail.
  • Retail in Alberta pays over $10.6 billion annually in payroll; that means that the retail industry represents one dollar of every $20 paid in salary in Alberta.
  • For every single retail job, an additional four more jobs are created.

Every election provides Albertans with the ability to shape their government and help to ensure that future members of the Legislative Assembly understand the role merchants play in Albertan’s lives and our economy.

Where the Parties Stand

voting ballot box

Retail Council of Canada sent a questionnaire to all political parties addressing the key issues affecting retail in the province. Responses are listed in order of the current number of seats held.

Question

NDP

Liberals

UCP

1. Do you support the RCC’s position on minimum wage? No Unclear Yes
2. Will you introduce a training credit or youth wage? No No Yes
3. Will you ensure that the Workers Compensation Board and Labour Relations Board protect the interests of both employers and employees? Unclear Yes Yes
4. Will you repeal first contract arbitration and the provision of secret ballot votes for union certification? No No Yes
5. Will you emphasize and streamline red tape reduction and regulatory burden throughout all government departments? Yes Yes Yes
6. Will you pledge to consult with employers on issues that affect their businesses, to avoid rushed and poorly-developed policy? Yes Yes Yes
7. Will your party commit to returning to a balanced budget before any further operational spending growth? No No Yes
8. Will you maintain Alberta’s competitive tax advantage by not introducing a PST as part of your deficit reduction strategy? Yes Yes Yes
9. Will you modernize the recycling regulation to improve diversion from landfill, and in the short-term remove fee-setting from regulation? Yes Unclear Unclear
10. Will your party pledge to work with the Retail Council of Canada to develop and implement a retail sector economic strategy? Yes Unclear Unclear

  1. The dramatic increase to Alberta’s minimum wage has hurt businesses and resulted in lost jobs and hours. To prevent further harm, are you prepared to freeze the minimum wage to allow neighbouring provinces to catch up, and link future increases to Consumer Price Index?

Alberta’s economic downturn hit Alberta families and businesses hard. But there are positive signs around us – small business confidence is up, manufacturing is up, and our economy is steadily adding jobs. We are proud to have partnered with small businesses to support this recovery, including with measures such as a cut to small business tax by one third. We have a plan to continue building on this momentum, with concrete measures to help diversify our economy and create high-quality jobs.

With respect to the minimum wage, we respectfully disagree with the Retail Council of Canada – increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour has been an important tool in addressing inequality and making life better for Albertans. We are proud of the record of this government in supporting working people, helping to build a stronger and fairer province with a long-lasting economic recovery for everyone.

 

  1. The rise of minimum wage has especially hurt those entering the workforce for the first time, through reduction of available jobs and hours. Are you prepared to help stimulate opportunities for Alberta’s youth by introducing a training credit or youth wage?

We are proud to have taken action in support of youth employment, including reinstating the province’s Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP). More generally, we believe that building a prosperous society and economy starts with investing in our children, and in particular with investments in a high-quality public education system. Hiring more teachers and support workers, building and restoring schools, and modernizing Alberta’s school curriculum will all help students get the skills they need to enter the workforce. Over the next four years our priority will be supporting youth employment through measures such as these, as opposed to cuts to the minimum wage or the creation of a multi-tiered minimum wage.

 

  1. Will you ensure that the Workers Compensation Board and Labour Relations Board protect the interests of both employers and employees – providing confidence that these organizations provide fair, balanced decisions that don’t undermine job creation? How?

We are committed to continuing to ensure that the WCB and LRB operate at the highest level for the benefit of employers and employees.

 

  1. Will your party commit to protect the interests of employers and employees through the repeal of first contract arbitration and the provision of secret ballot votes for union certification?

When we came to office, we found a set of rules governing Alberta workplaces which had not been updated in decades, and which were out of step with the rules in place in other jurisdictions. That’s why we set out to modernize these rules – and we have done so all the while presiding over a period of economic recovery and job growth. We are proud of the work we have done.

 

  1. The layering impact of new regulations has been costly and administratively burdensome to retail businesses. Will your party commit to a dedicated resource to emphasize and streamline red tape reduction and regulatory burden throughout all government departments?

Cutting red tape and streamlining government are important tools for any government. That’s why we have taken steps including streamlining rules to help energy projects go ahead. We have also taken significant steps to cut waste within government – from reducing the government’s travel budget by 70% to bringing executive compensation at our Agencies, Boards and Commissions down in line with national standards. We will continue to take a balanced approach on these matters.

 

  1. Will your party pledge to consult through a transparent process with employers on issues that affect their businesses, to avoid rushed and poorly-developed policy?

We are committed to consulting with stakeholders on important public policy areas upon which they are impacted.

 

  1. Alberta’s net debt will rise nearly 50 percent in the next three years. Will your party commit to returning to a balanced budget before any further operational spending growth? 

We have laid out a responsible path to return the provincial budget to balance by 2023 while making smart investments in the things Albertans rely on – from better schools and hospitals, to improved infrastructure. In fact, over the last two years we have met or exceeded our budget targets, bringing the deficit down faster than projected. Today Alberta has the best balance sheet in the country.

 

  1. Will your party commit to maintaining Alberta’s competitive tax advantage by not introducing a PST as part of your deficit reduction strategy?

If re-elected, we will not introduce a sales tax.

 

  1. Will your party pledge to modernize the recycling regulation to improve diversion from landfill, and in the short-term remove fee-setting from regulation that has jeopardized the viability of Alberta Recycling programs – and undermined the reputation of businesses?

We recognize that Alberta’s recycling system is not operating as effectively as it can. We are committed to working with all stakeholders, including industry, municipalities and consumers, to explore ways to modernize Alberta’s recycling system.

 

  1. Will your party pledge to work with the Retail Council of Canada to develop and implement a retail sector economic strategy?

If re-elected, we are committed to work with the Retail Council of Canada on matters of interest to the retail sector.

  1. The dramatic increase to Alberta’s minimum wage has hurt businesses and resulted in lost jobs and hours. To prevent further harm, are you prepared to freeze the minimum wage to allow neighbouring provinces to catch up, and link future increases to Consumer Price Index?

The Alberta Liberals support the new $15 minimum wage, but believe that the NDP should have phased it in more gradually to allow employers time to adjust, particularly in light of other cost increases resulting from the carbon tax, changes around statutory holiday pay and an expanded Canada Pension Plan.

We also acknowledge that there are limits to how far minimum wage policy can go in terms of reducing poverty. At some point, and arguably we’ve already reached that in Alberta, large consecutive minimum wage increases become self-defeating as businesses move to lower their costs – which clearly can involve reducing staff or hours or increasing their prices.

The minimum wage should reflect what most businesses can reasonably afford to pay their employees and still remain profitable. At the end of the day, businesses aren’t charities and shouldn’t be expected to do the government’s poverty reduction work for it.  That’s why we believe minimum wage policy must be better counterbalanced with other government-driven poverty reduction measures. In particular, the Alberta Liberals support the introduction of a guaranteed minimum income that the government assures and finances.

In terms of future minimum wage increases, we favour establishing a commission with balanced representation – including business groups and economists – that would advise on the best way for Alberta to proceed. This could very well involve tying minimum wage increases to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), but we would leave that to the commission to make recommendations on. The benefit of basing future increases on CPI is that it would depoliticize the process and ensure that changes happen very gradually. However, as we learned from the former B.C. government’s proposal to tie minimum wage increases to CPI, there is also a very real risk that increases of any significance could take decades.       

 

  1. The rise of minimum wage has especially hurt those entering the workforce for the first time, through reduction of available jobs and hours. Are you prepared to help stimulate opportunities for Alberta’s youth by introducing a training credit or youth wage?

The Alberta Liberals oppose a youth specific minimum wage, and view it as a form of age discrimination. It’s very easy to generalize and suggest that younger workers are a homogenous group, lacking skills or practical experience, living a life of relative comfort at home with two parents working and simply looking to earn a bit of disposable income. However, that’s not the reality for many. Some youth are saving to invest in their education or create opportunities for themselves. Others are helping to support their families and make ends meet. It isn’t right to lump all youth into a single category and say that they deserve less pay simply because of their age.

To be clear, however, the Alberta Liberals do believe that the province should allow a lower minimum wage to be paid specifically to liquor servers and other gratuity earners.  

The Alberta Liberals would offset the higher minimum wage for youth by introducing incentives to help small businesses and employers hire younger workers. 

 

  1. Will you ensure that the Workers Compensation Board and Labour Relations Board protect the interests of both employers and employees – providing confidence that these organizations provide fair, balanced decisions that don’t undermine job creation? How?

Yes, the provincial government has an ongoing responsibility to maintain a fair and balanced labour environment in Alberta. It’s an extremely delicate balance given that both employers and organized labour continually seek to further their own interests, gain concessions from government and discredit policies favoured by the other side.

The Alberta Liberals believe that maintaining a proper equilibrium starts with having regular, statutory, all-party reviews of the relevant legislation. In the case of Alberta’s recently amended labour laws, those hadn’t been significantly reviewed or changed in nearly 30 years – which is certainly long enough for policies to become skewed. In that sense, it’s hardly surprising that the NDP, as a party affiliated with the labour movement, would seize the opportunity to enact changes intended to swing the pendulum back somewhat towards workers’ interests. And while a “reset” of sorts was arguably long overdue, legitimate questions remain as to whether the NDP actually went too far in some areas.             

In hindsight, it might have been possible to mitigate some of the excesses of the NDP’s Bill 17, Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act, had they only been willing to consult with affected stakeholders for longer than 36 days, which was clearly far too little time given the scope and impact of the changes. Curiously, the NDP were quite prepared to undertake a proper and thorough consultation when they amended both the Municipal Government Act and the Workers’ Compensation Act, but appeared to give short shrift to the concerns of employers and business groups when it came to revamping the Employment Standards Code and the Labour Relations Code.

 

  1. Will your party commit to protect the interests of employers and employees through the repeal of first contract arbitration and the provision of secret ballot votes for union certification?

First contract arbitration now exists in just about every Canadian jurisdiction, and the Alberta Liberals believe that not having this in our province’s Labour Relations Code was a glaring deficiency. Our party has long supported amending the Labour Relations Code to establish a mechanism to ensure that employers and the certified bargaining agents of their employees can apply to a mediator to assist both parties in negotiating a first collective agreement if an impasse is reached.

To be clear, we see first contract arbitration as an incentive, but not a replacement, for employers to work through the process to reach a collective agreement. In order to achieve a collective agreement in a timely manner, we support the setting of firm timelines to guide the process of arbitration. We also believe that decisions of the mediator and the terms of the collective agreement must be binding on all parties involved.

The simplified union certification process that the NDP introduced as part of Bill 17, Fair and Family-friendly Workplaces Act, is obviously a point of contention for some. In short, those who are philosophically opposed to unions or anything that makes it easier for workplaces to unionize will probably oppose this change. However, what has been adopted is really a hybrid system whereby secret ballot votes for union certification will still be required if between 40 per cent and 65 per cent of employees sign cards in favour of a union. The only instance where a Labour Relations Board conducted vote will not be required is if the 65 per cent threshold has been surpassed. Business and labour groups will no doubt continue to disagree over whether the newly established thresholds are fair or if a secret ballot vote should still be held in all workplaces where unionization has been proposed. Regardless of how one views this, it’s important to note that the Labour Relations Board can still conduct a vote if there is any question as to the authenticity of support for unionization, or in any other situation where the Board feels that a vote is necessary. Interestingly, the Alberta Chambers of Commerce, one of the province’s most important and influential business groups, has called this new hybrid system “a compromise.”

 

  1. The layering impact of new regulations has been costly and administratively burdensome to retail businesses. Will your party commit to a dedicated resource to emphasize and streamline red tape reduction and regulatory burden throughout all government departments?

Yes, the Alberta Liberals are committed to cutting unnecessary and costly red tape and support the use of efficiency audits to help reduce regulatory burden. Processes and administrative requirements should be streamlined wherever possible to lower costs for both government and businesses alike.

 

  1. Will your party pledge to consult through a transparent process with employers on issues that affect their businesses, to avoid rushed and poorly-developed policy?

Yes, the Alberta Liberals believe that employers must be consulted in a meaningful way on all issues and legislation that affect them directly.

For example, the Alberta Liberals called for the NDP’s controversial labour law changes in Bill 17 to be put on hold and the consultation period extended beyond the 36 days that were allotted, fearing that the legislation was being pushed through too quickly. However, the NDP refused to heed our request, and now businesses are having to live with changes that could have been much more sensitive to employer needs and challenges.      

 

  1. Alberta’s net debt will rise nearly 50 percent in the next three years. Will your party commit to returning to a balanced budget before any further operational spending growth? 

The reality is that Alberta’s population continues to grow – and age – and freezing operational spending until such time that the deficit is eliminated would simply be too restrictive and risks putting crucial front-line services in peril. That said, the Alberta Liberals believe that all reasonable efforts should be made to reduce operational spending, and the NDP practice of borrowing to pay for operational expenses should be discontinued.

 

  1. Will your party commit to maintaining Alberta’s competitive tax advantage by not introducing a PST as part of your deficit reduction strategy?

Albertans have consistently and vocally articulated that they do not want a retail sales tax at this time, and we will honour that. The Alberta Liberals also believe that taxes on corporate and personal income are, by far, the most economically harmful, and that a serious and dispassionate review of the province’s overall tax structure is warranted and long overdue.

 

  1. Will your party pledge to modernize the recycling regulation to improve diversion from landfill, and in the short-term remove fee-setting from regulation that has jeopardized the viability of Alberta Recycling programs – and undermined the reputation of businesses?

The Alberta Liberals believe very strongly that the province must transition away from its current product stewardship initiatives and implement a policy of extended producer responsibility (EPR). Doing so will bring us in line with most other Canadian jurisdictions and shift the financial burden of recycling from municipalities to large producers of consumer products. The reality is that commercial producers are already incorporating the costs of EPR into the price of their products, so Albertans are really being double-billed when they pay their municipal recycling fees.      

 

  1. Will your party pledge to work with the Retail Council of Canada to develop and implement a retail sector economic strategy?

The Alberta Liberals are committed to working with all business groups on issues and legislation that affect their members directly.

  1. The dramatic increase to Alberta’s minimum wage has hurt businesses and resulted in lost jobs and hours. To prevent further harm, are you prepared to freeze the minimum wage to allow neighbouring provinces to catch up, and link future increases to Consumer Price Index?

Yes. A United Conservative government would keep the general minimum wage at $15/hour and appoint a Minimum Wage Expert Panel to consult with workers, employers, and policy experts to analyse and publish all of the available economic data on the labour market impact of the NDP’s 50% increase to the minimum wage.

This Panel would assess situations such as whether hospitality industry workers who serve alcohol would likely generate higher net incomes (i.e., by working more hours) and create a more equitable playing field with other minimum wage earners with a wage differential similar to those that exist in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. This panel would also make recommendations on when and how future increases should be determined.

 

  1. The rise of minimum wage has especially hurt those entering the workforce for the first time, through reduction of available jobs and hours. Are you prepared to help stimulate opportunities for Alberta’s youth by introducing a training credit or youth wage?

Yes. A United Conservative government would introduce a Youth Job Creation Wage of $13.00 for workers who are 17 years of age or younger in order to incentivize the creation of first-time jobs for teenagers. As note, Alberta’s youth have been denied good starter jobs as a result of the NDP’s policy mistakes including the minimum wage hike.

 

  1. Will you ensure that the Workers Compensation Board and Labour Relations Board protect the interests of both employers and employees – providing confidence that these organizations provide fair, balanced decisions that don’t undermine job creation? How?

Yes. We will streamline legislation and remove duplication and unnecessary regulatory burdens on job creators, employees and union members. An example of duplication and overlap would be a discrimination or harassment complaint that can be filed to both Occupational Health and Safety and the Human Rights Commission. A UCP government would focus complaints to one body.

 

  1. Will your party commit to protect the interests of employers and employees through the repeal of first contract arbitration and the provision of secret ballot votes for union certification?

As announced March 15, our Open for Business Act will restore the secret ballot votes for union certification. The NDP injured basic democratic rights and opened the door to bullying and deception to get the signatures required for union certification without giving employees the chance to share their true wishes in a ratifying vote.

 

  1. The layering impact of new regulations has been costly and administratively burdensome to retail businesses. Will your party commit to a dedicated resource to emphasize and streamline red tape reduction and regulatory burden throughout all government departments?

Yes. A United Conservative government would implement a Red Tape Reduction Action Plan to reignite the economy. An Associate Minister for Red Tape Reduction would lead the initiative of reducing Alberta’s regulatory burden by at least one third. Agencies or ministries proposing new regulations will be required to identify at least one offsetting regulation for elimination, and feedback will be solicited from workers and the public through a Red Tape Challenge website.

 

  1. Will your party pledge to consult through a transparent process with employers on issues that affect their businesses, to avoid rushed and poorly-developed policy?

Yes.

 

  1. Alberta’s net debt will rise nearly 50 percent in the next three years. Will your party commit to returning to a balanced budget before any further operational spending growth? 

Yes.

 

  1. Will your party commit to maintaining Alberta’s competitive tax advantage by not introducing a PST as part of your deficit reduction strategy?

Yes. Jason Kenney successfully lobbied Ralph Klein’s government to adopt the Taxpayer Protection Act in 1995, which requires that a referendum be held before a sales tax can be imposed on Albertans.

The NDP’s carbon tax is also arguably a form of a sales tax. A United Conservative government would immediately repeal the NDP carbon tax and amend the Taxpayer Protection Act to require a referendum on any proposed future carbon tax.

 

  1. Will your party pledge to modernize the recycling regulation to improve diversion from landfill, and in the short-term remove fee-setting from regulation that has jeopardized the viability of Alberta Recycling programs – and undermined the reputation of businesses?

The recycling space is undergoing structural changes due to the collapse in demand from China and we would be happy to discuss the merits of ideas like this with the Retail Council of Canada.

 

  1. Will your party pledge to work with the Retail Council of Canada to develop and implement a retail sector economic strategy?

A United Conservative will always consider the work of stakeholders in the context of the broad public interest.

Alberta Key Retail Issues

Stabilize minimum wage

Minimum wage in Alberta has increased an unprecedented 47% over the past four years, costing Albertans jobs, higher prices and lost opportunities – especially for Alberta’s youth who face high unemployment rates.

Recommendations

  • Freeze minimum wage to allow neighbouring provinces to catch up, before indexing future increases to CPI;
  • Introduce a youth or training wage in recognition of the cost differential of hiring inexperienced employees.
minimum wage abstract


Rebalance labour laws

man in front of grocery scale

There have been significant changes to the Labour Relations Code that must be reviewed and rebalanced. For example, mandatory secret ballots were eliminated, removing the right for workers to make their own personal decision, and exposing them to peer pressure by their colleagues and intimidation by union organizers. As a result, 2017 was the highest number of single-year, new union certifications in Alberta in over a decade.

Recommendations

  • Ensure both employers and workers’ rights are protected by repealing automatic certification without a vote.
  • Repeal first contract arbitration rules that have given unions enhanced incentive to bargain in bad faith and undermine difficult negotiations


Consult employers

In 2017, employment and labour regulations underwent significant legislative changes that directly impacted all retail employers in Alberta. These disruptive and often costly amendments were passed with only 36 days of public consultation.

Employers responsible for implementing new policies must be provided reasonable time to offer input, including ensuring operational practicalities and implementation timelines are considered.

Recommendations

  • Provide reasonable time for consultation with stakeholders to ensure fulsome input and insights are heard before implementing new policies.
hands in air asking questions


Develop retail sector strategy

Retailer completing card payment

While today Alberta retail is an $80 billion boast to the economy, retailers are facing significant cumulative cost and competitive pressures. In the modern age of retail, there is no certainty of continued success as national, online and offshore channels threaten “brick-and-mortar” Alberta stores.

Recommendations

  • Work with Retail Council of Canada to develop a proper sectoral policy focus commensurate with the size of the retail industry. While other industries have been the focus of sector strategies and incentives, the retail industry has long been overlooked.

Get Involved

shopkeeper holding retail matters sign

Use these tools to contact your local candidates and make your voice heard.

Use the Alberta Elections tool to find candidates and their contact info for your riding.

Find your candidates

Show your pride in retail by posting a photo of your retail staff holding a #RetailMatters sign or a photo of your store.

#RetailMatters sign

Print #RetailMatters Sign

3. Tell candidates #RetailMatters

Use these links to send parties your staff photos or customized tweets.


You can also send a letter to your candidate

Let your candidates know how important retail is to Albertans by sending a letter. RCC has created a pre-written template you can use to make sure candidates and elected officials understand retail’s impact in your community and how they can support our sector.


Contributing to political parties – what you need to know

Contributing to a campaign can be an effective way to build relationships with candidates in your riding.

Make sure that you understand the rules before lending your support to a provincial political party and its campaign. Here is a quick summary of things to remember:

Who can contribute?

Only individual residents of Alberta may make political contributions.

In other words, businesses and unions are not allowed to make political contributions in Alberta.

What is the contribution limit?

Contributions cannot exceed $4,000 per calendar year to any party, or combination of parties, constituency associations, candidates, nomination contestants or leadership contestants.

What is considered a contribution?

A contribution is any money, real property, goods or services, or the use of real property, goods or services, provided to or for the benefit of a political entity without compensation from the political entity to the donor.

How can a contribution be made?

Only registered entities (ex. political parties, candidates, constituency associations), can accept contributions. Once registered, political parties may accept contributions, at any time. RCC encourages would-be donors to connect with the political party or candidate that they are interested in donating to in order to best understand how to contribute. There are some nuanced rules about who can officially accept a donation (before/after a campaign, or during). Of course, the party and/or candidate will be happy to provide direction here.

For more information on political donations and contributions, see the Alberta Election page.

Contact Us

John GrahamFor questions or to find out more, contact John Graham jgraham@retailcouncil.org or 204-926-8624.

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