The Government of Alberta is taking steps to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2018, fulfilling a promise from when Premier Rachel Notley was elected last year.

Effective October 1, the minimum wage will increase a full dollar to $12.20 per hour, and the current liquor server differential will be removed.

The minimum wage will increase to $13.60 per hour on October 1, 2017, and it will reach $15 per hour on October 1, 2018.

The province says the salary increase will have an impact in reducing the wage gap between men and women in Alberta, where 62 per cent of minimum wage earners are women.

"This is a historic opportunity to reduce the wage gap across the province,” Brenda Brochu, President of the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters said. “A woman who works all day to support her family should not have to take a second job or go to the food bank to meet her basic needs.”

Government officials claim that a higher minimum wage will have a low or negligible impact on Alberta businesses.

“We have benefited greatly from paying higher than minimum wages through very high staff retention thereby saving on training, maintaining efficiencies and creating a workplace people want to be part of,” Duchess Bake Shop co-owner Garner Beggs said. “Everybody’s lives have a fundamental worth, and if they are spending their energy and time to work and benefit society, then they are deserving of a fair wage.”

The Edmonton Chamber and the Calgary Chamber released a joint statement in which they said that, “with increasing rates of business closures and bankruptcies, it’s the wrong time to add to the burdens faced by Alberta businesses with a significant increase to the minimum wage.”

Janet Riopel, President and CEO of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, went on to say that “we support Albertans being paid a fair wage. Our concern is the rapid increase to a $15 minimum wage could have unintended and harmful consequences for the very people it’s trying to help. Ultimately, businesses and non-profits may be faced with cutting staff or reducing hours in order to survive impacts of the minimum wage increase to their bottom line.”

Government officials said that almost 300,000 Albertans earn less than $15 per hour – 38 per cent of which are families with children.