Hope is on the horizon for Alberta’s restaurateurs

Published April 12, 2019

Restaurants Canada represents a growing community of 30,000+ members with political opinions that are as diverse as the industry itself. But one thing our members all agree on is that running a foodservice business is incredibly challenging — according to the latest data from Statistics Canada, the profit margin for an average Canadian restaurant is less than 5 per cent.

In Alberta, restaurant realities are especially difficult right now. Restaurateurs across the province have been battling a perfect storm of operational cost increases from municipal tax hikes and a variety of recent policy changes against the backdrop of a weak provincial economy.

With Albertans heading to the polls on April 16, Restaurants Canada has been asking all of the province’s major political parties to come to the table with solutions that can help foodservice businesses survive and thrive; they need all hands on deck so that they can continue contributing to the economic and social wellbeing of the communities they serve.

More than a third of Alberta’s restaurants are considering closing their doors

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.

Respondents said they have resorted to the following actions to keep their doors open:

  • 94 per cent have increased menu prices
  • 88 per cent have decreased staff hours
  • 61 per cent have hired fewer youth for entry-level positions
  • 46 per cent have laid off staff
  • 26 per cent have explored self-service solutions like touch pads and kiosks

Working together with Restaurants Canada, the next government elected in Alberta has an opportunity to create better conditions for the province’s foodservice sector.

Restaurants Canada shared 16 policy recommendations with Alberta’s four major parties on Jan. 14 in the hopes that they would be incorporated into all their platforms in the lead up to the provincial election.

These recommendations can be found at restaurantrealities.ca, along with information on how to join the conversation about improving #RestaurantRealities in Alberta.

Promises to improve restaurant realities

Restaurants Canada is encouraged by the number of campaign promises from Alberta’s political parties that would positively impact the province’s foodservice and small business communities.

More than 20 policies have been proposed to date that would positively impact foodservice operations in the province — including at least two positive promises from every major party. One party even mentioned Restaurants Canada in the introduction of their platform.

Below is a complete listing of the positive policy pledges that were made in five key areas where Restaurants Canada has called for solutions.

Labour

The Alberta Party would:

  • Retain the general minimum wage of $15 per hour.

Alberta’s Liberal Party would:

  • Undertake a thorough stakeholder consultation to update Employment Standards and Labour Relations Code.
  • 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.

The United Conservative Party would:

  • 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
    • Analyse and publish all of the available economic data on the labour market impact of the recent 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 employees to enter into straight time banked hour averaging agreements with their employers that allow banked hours to be paid out at regular pay instead of time-and-a-half.

Reducing Small Business Costs and Red Tape

The Alberta Party would:

  • Introduce a Business Certainty Guarantee that would give businesses and investors confidence that the overall costs of doing business in Alberta will either stay the same or go down during the government’s four-year term.

Alberta’s New Democratic Party would:

  • Create a Small Business Investment Office to streamline small business regulation and support new and growing businesses.

The United Conservative Party would:

  • 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.
  • Cut provincial regulations and paperwork for municipalities and ensure municipalities pass along savings to taxpayers.

Taxes

The Alberta Party would:

  • Not introduce a provincial sales tax.
  • Lower corporate income tax from 12 per cent to 10 per cent.
  • Increase small business income tax threshold from $500,000 to $1 million.
  • Provide 100 per cent capital cost allowance for new investments.

Alberta’s Liberal Party would:

  • Lower corporate income tax from 12 per cent to 10 per cent.

Alberta’s New Democratic Party would:

  • Not introduce a provincial sales tax.

The United Conservative Party would:

  • Lower corporate tax rate from 12 per cent to 8 per cent.
  • Not introduce a provincial sales tax.
  • Cut provincial regulations and paperwork for municipalities and ensure municipalities pass along savings to taxpayers.
  • Streamline approvals for development and provide tax incentives to attract investment and development.

Environment

The Alberta Party would:

  • Exempt small businesses from paying carbon tax.
  • Eliminate carbon tax for municipalities, reducing their costs.

The United Conservative Party would:

  • Eliminate the province’s carbon tax all together.

Liquor Policy

The United Conservative Party would:

  • Reduce unnecessary liquor-related costs and red tape for small businesses, such as the minimum 25-case-order policy.

Full party platforms

To learn more about Alberta’s main parties and their platforms, visit the websites below:

Alberta’s New Democratic Party
Alberta Liberal Party
Alberta Party
United Conservative Party

Get ready to vote!

Election Day is fast approaching.

Restaurants Canada encourages all members in Alberta to make their voice heard and vote.

For information on your electoral division, polling place and local candidates, visit the Elections Alberta website.

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 mark@restaurantscanada.org or 1-800-387-5649 ext. 6500.

Marlee Wasser

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