United Conservative Party Leader Jason Kenney was sworn in as Alberta’s 18th premier on April 30 and unveiled a relatively young, culturally diverse and gender-balanced cabinet.
The cabinet includes 20 ministers and three associate ministers. Only seven of the total 23 members are returning MLAs.
Below are the new cabinet ministers with positions of particular interest to the foodservice community:
- Jason Copping — Minister of Labour and Immigration
- Doug Schweitzer — Minister of Justice and Solicitor General
- Jason Nixon — Minister of Environment and Parks
- Travis Toews — President of Treasury Board and Finance
- Tanya Fir — Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism
- Grant Hunter — Associate Minister of Red Tape Reduction
Restaurants Canada will soon be setting up meetings with these ministers to discuss policy changes that would provide much needed relief for Alberta’s struggling restaurant industry.
Restaurant realities were a major focus of provincial election campaign
Restaurants Canada shared 16 policy recommendations with Alberta’s four major parties on Jan. 14 (which can be found at restaurantrealities.ca) in the hopes that they would be incorporated into all their platforms in the lead up to the province’s spring election.
Following a number of industry events, meetings with candidates and a great deal of media coverage about these recommendations, more than 20 policies were ultimately proposed ahead of Alberta’s election on April 16 that would positively impact foodservice operations in the province.
While at least two positive promises were made from every major party, the vast majority of commitments that would improve restaurant realities came from the UCP.
After an election that saw the province’s highest voter turnout since 1982, the UCP received 54.9 per cent of the total votes cast and secured 63 of the seats in the provincial legislature, winning a decisive victory over Alberta’s first NDP government.
Promises to improve realities for Alberta’s restaurants
During his official swearing in ceremony at Edmonton’s Government House, Kenney said his new majority UCP government is “eager to get to work” fulfilling a total of 375 commitments made during the election campaign.
These include the following commitments that would improve operational realities for Alberta’s restaurants:
- Retain the general minimum wage of $15 per hour.
- Introduce a Youth Job Creation Wage of $13.00 per hour for workers who are 17 years of age or younger in order to incentivize the creation of first-time jobs for unemployed dependent teenagers.
- Appoint a Minimum Wage Expert Panel to:
– Consult with workers, employers, and policy experts.
– Analyze and publish all of the available economic data on the labour market impact of the NDP’s 50 per cent increase in the minimum wage.
– Assess whether hospitality industry workers who serve alcohol would likely generate higher net incomes (i.e., by working more hours) with a wage differential similar to those that exist in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.
- Revert to previous statutory holiday pay rules:
– Return to a regular/irregular workday distinction for calculating general holiday pay.
– Return to a holiday pay qualifying period of 30 work days in the last 90 days of employment.
- Return to allowing straight time banked hour averaging agreements to be paid out at regular pay instead of time-and-a-half.
- Lower the corporate tax rate from 12 per cent to 8 per cent.
- Not introduce a provincial sales tax.
- Streamline approvals for development and provide tax incentives to attract investment and development.
- Eliminate the carbon tax.
- Review all regulations as part of the UCP Red Tape Reduction Action Plan, with the goal of reducing the regulatory burden on job creators by one third. (Restaurants Canada’s recommendation to lower the current 25-case-minimum for liquor orders was used as an example of red tape to be reduced).
- Cut provincial regulations and paperwork for municipalities and ensure municipalities pass along savings to taxpayers.
Restaurants Canada is ready to get down to work
Restaurants Canada looks forward to working with the UCP and all members of Alberta’s new government toward fulfilling these commitments so that the province’s foodservice sector can regain a solid footing and positive future outlook following recent setbacks.
According to a recent survey by Restaurants Canada, one in three foodservice businesses in Alberta might close their doors if the realities of running a restaurant in the province don’t improve.
When foodservice businesses struggle, so do the communities they serve. A thriving foodservice sector is critical to the social fabric and economic well-being of every community across Alberta, contributing to jobs, investment, innovation, tourism and spaces for people to come together.
If you have any questions or would like more information, you can get in touch with Mark von Schellwitz, Restaurants Canada Vice President, Western Canada, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-387-5649 ext. 6500.