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Perfesser Dave explains Alberta's new minimum wage law

Alberta Employment Etc. Minuster Thomas Lukaszuk

Some stories are just too complicated for ordinary bloggers to explain. That's when we turn to the expert knowledge offered by Perfesser Dave, the Answer Guy. Perfesser Dave knows practically everything there is to know about politics, economics and labour relations in Canada. In fact, if he were any smarter, he'd have to be hired by the Calgary School! So if you have questions, don't ask me! Ask Perfesser Dave!

Questioner: Perfesser Dave, I'm totally confused. I mean really baffled. Yesterday, Alberta's Minister of Employment and Immigration, Thomas Lukaszuk, introduced a two-tiered minimum wage, one that pays 35 cents less per hour to people who serve liquor. This makes no sense! Why would anyone do a crazy thing like that? Can you illuminate my fuzzification?

Perfesser Dave: That's a really good question, Questioner. My colleagues in the political sciences field have studied this at length and we have no explanation for why a Canadian province calls its minister of labour the minister of immigration. We think maybe this was a reward from the premier, Ed Stelmach because Mr. Lukaszuk, who immigrated to Alberta from Poland, was loyal to him. It sounds sort of federal, doesn't it? But we're really not sure.

Questioner: Well, that's very illuminating, Perfesser Dave, but it's not the question I asked you. I asked you why a government that wants to get re-elected would do something as silly as let employers pay people who serve alcohol less than other employees?

Perfesser Dave: Oh! Sorry! I so rarely listen to my students! They seldom have anything interesting to say. Now, what was that again?

Questioner: I'm not your student! … Alberta's two-tier minimum wage…?

Perfesser Dave: Oh, that. That's easy! Liquor's a sin, so you should get paid less for bringing it to the table.

Questioner: Surely you jest!

Perfesser Dave: As a matter of fact, I do jest. Perfessers are allowed to tell little jokes, and their students always have to laugh! So why aren't you laughing? Actually, it's because Tom Lukaszuk is thinking about running for the leadership of the Conservative party to replace Mr. Stelmach.

Question: Now just a minute, Perfesser! That doesn't make any sense, how is doing something like that going to help him?

Perfesser Dave: It'll help him in lots of ways. First, it proves to voters that he doesn't listen to all those stuck-up assistant deputy ministers and all the other over-educated snobs that work in his department. You can depend on it that they're all squirming with embarrassment about this right now. As a matter of fact, 'round about last week there were reports they were lining up outside his office begging him not to do this.

Questioner: Ignoring the government's experts! Won't that worry voters … ?

Perfesser Dave: In Alberta? Did you just move here or something? Voters out here love that kind of stuff! This will more than make up for Mr. Lukaszuk's Tarzan haircut, which some political scientists think may be a liability south of Red Deer.

Questioner: (Mumbles.)

Perfesser Dave: What's that? Speak up!

Questioner: Nothing. Never mind. This policy is so spectacularly stupid that nobody's going to like it except bloggers who dine out on making fun of the government…

Perfesser Dave: Well, maybe you're on to something there. This may explain why Mr. Lukaszuk always looks like he's walking into a brisk wind. Or maybe that's just his haircut… You said dining out. … Would this be in a place that serves liquor?

Questioner: You said lots of ways. You only gave me one….

Perfesser Dave: Patience, Questioner! This will also be very popular with restaurant owners, who lobbied Mr. Lukaszuk hard for it. It'll mean big savings for them, and lots more customers….

Questioner: Big savings? From paying 35 cents less an hour? C'mon, that's not going to make any  difference.

Perfesser Dave: Au contraire, my friend! Think about it from a labour relations point of view. Now employers will be able to argue that maybe they have to pay people who serve liquor $9.05 per hour, but they shouldn't have to pay them anything for the time they stand around breathing the employer's air, so, say, if the waiters spend two hours of an eight-hour shift actually waiting tables, and six hours standing around and smoking out in the alley, the owners should only have to pay them $2.26 an hour! So this is good for families, and Conservatives like to do things that are good for families, right?

Questioner: Oh, come on, Perfesser Dave. How is this good for families? You can't raise a family on $9.05 an hour, let alone $2.26!

Perfesser Dave: Who said anything about waitresses’ families? Are you paying attention? I'm talking about the owners' families! Now, think about this: If employers hire their under-age children to help out in their restaurants, which we also allow them to do in child-labour-friendly Alberta, they can pay them $9.40, but they only have to pay the guys who do all the heavy lifting $9.05! Ergo, better for families. All part of the Alberta Advantage™!

Questioner: Awww…. Perfesser Dave! That's just lame!

Perfesser Dave: …And your point is?

Questioner: Whatever… I guess the government could always argue that people who serve booze get tips.

Perfesser Dave: Tips! That's another good thing about this from the government's perspective! It sets the going rate for tips in Alberta at 35 cents an hour, which will be great for tourism when the Americans hear about it!

Questioner: With the Canadian dollar at $1.03 American? I don't think so.

Perfesser Dave: Well, Tom can say it'll help. What other provincial government is doing anything about this? More important, what other Conservative leadership candidate?

Questioner: Well, I suppose. But it's not as if it's going to help pay down the deficit.

Perfesser Dave: Actually, maybe it can. I understand there's been some thought given to paying Conservative ministers' executive assistants 35 cents an hour less when they're fetching drinks for their ministers. Obviously, that would be a huge direct benefit to taxpayers…. Plus, what about the pilots on the government plane. Taxpayers can pay them 35 cents less when they’re serving grapes…

Questioner: Yeah… sure…. Getting back to tips….

Perfesser Dave: Seriously! Maybe Mr. Lukaszuk can work something up in the Labour Standards Code that says restaurant employees who eat the restaurant's food have to tip their employers! They could have 15 per cent deducted from their cheques!

Questioner: There's only a 4-per-cent difference. …

Perfesser Dave: Well, 4 per cent. Three-point-nine… Whatever. Restaurant owners will love it, and maybe they'll help some more with the expenses from Mr. Lukaszuk's leadership campaign! After all, he needs $40,000 just to get in the door, which, come to think of it, may explain why he hasn't officially joined the race…

Questioner: Yeah, this should really clinch it for him! Now that we know 35 cents per hour is the value of continued support for the Alberta Conservative Party, I hope all those other business owners are paying attention. What a victory! Waiter! Drinks all 'round…

Perfesser Dave: Did you say drinks? Are you coming over to the Faculty Club?

Questioner: (Inaudible.)

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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