If Alberta restaurants can’t find workers, they should pay more

Alberta restaurants could be doing a lot more to lure staff

(Shutterstock)

(Shutterstock)

From the moment Ottawa clamped down on the use of temporary foreign workers by restaurants, we’ve heard dire warnings, especially from Alberta, that many businesses will be forced to shut down because they are unable to find workers. The counter-argument to that has always been: Why don’t you pay more, then?

Today, Statistics Canada released its job vacancy data for April and, as expected, it showed Alberta has the tightest job market in the country with a vacancy rate of 2.4 per cent, nearly double the national average. And indeed, in Alberta’s restaurant and hospitality sector, the hunger for workers is far higher with a job vacancy rate of 7.7 per cent, close to three times the national rate. Speaking to the Calgary Herald, Todd Hirsch, chief economist with ATB Financial, pinned the blame squarely on the changes to the temporary foreign worker (TFW) program.

But what about the argument that if Alberta restaurants want to attract workers, they should hike their pay? There’s a lot to suggest that’s exactly what they should be doing. Because, as the chart below shows, when you put the restaurant industries in Alberta and Ontario side by side, Alberta restaurants could be doing a lot more to lure staff.

Alb-Ont restaurant Vacancy & wage rate

In a nutshell, even though the restaurant job vacancy rate is off the charts in Alberta compared to Ontario, restaurant wages in Alberta have not risen any faster over the past three years than they have in Ontario. Yes, Alberta restaurants pay higher than Ontario restaurants, but shouldn’t supply and demand dictate that the pay out West be even higher, and rising faster, than back East?

Source: Statistics Canada CANSIM Table 284-0001 for job vacancy rates and 281-0063 for average weekly earnings.




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If Alberta restaurants can’t find workers, they should pay more

  1. Alberta restaurants or fast-food joints are competing against the oil fields. And they’ll never be able to pay enough to compete against the oil fields ….they’ll simply go out of business.

    • It’s amazing that some people just don’t get that. It’s like a Tim Horton’s franchise in Ft.Mac can somehow exist the same way one does in Brandon, MB, except they just have to pay their people $100,000 to pour coffee.

      Then again, maybe everybody does just get rich working in Alberta.

      • Article is trying to compare Ont and Alberta as well, and they are two completely different types of economy.

        Economists and journalists just go by numbers….not by region and culture.

        • The point of the article is precisely that Ontario and Alberta are two completely different types of economy.

          In the vicinity of the oilpatch, yes competition for workers is going to be higher, so yes Tim’s will have to pay more. That may well mean that Tim’s will have to charge more for a cup of coffee, but lets face it the workers making money can afford it. In any case, their alternative is a drive down to Brandon for a cup of coffee. The local cost of living is going to be higher so the Tim’s worker needs those higher wages to compensate.

          One of the problems is that restaurant chains like to have uniform pricing for marketing purposes. If you start with a fixed price, independent of local labour costs then you have a problem raising wages to attract workers. The government should not be introducing programs to solve the business model problems.

          • Ontario has nothing to do with this. The wage in Alberta is totally skewed by the oil field.

            Generally though…. in Canada, the US and elsewhere, all fast food workers want more money and it’s nothing to do with oil.

          • Em, the point of the comparison is to show that despite the differences in the two economies, the rate of pay in Alberta is not changing faster than in Ontario. The law of supply and demand says it ought to. So it is a good comparison, as it indicates that Alta restaurant owners are not responding to market pressures and are instead looking to government to subsidize them by importing cheap foreign labour.

            It’s not that difficult a concept. Even you should be able to grasp it.

        • Yes, Emily…..

          In some regions, the culture is not sit back and collect EI or welfare instead of taking a job that some feel is beneath them.

          Wealthy regions have wealthier customers, so raise the wages and the prices.

          And journalists rarely have a grasp of numbers; unless of course they have a background in business or economics. (Coyne)

          • Again with the silliness. Ciao

          • Emily,

            Your “worldliness” extends only to knowing one word in Italian.

            In all other aspects, you are hopelessly ill-informed.

          • James I’m not interested in your high school intellectualism…..talk to someone else.

          • Poor, Emily….

            Always running away.

  2. THIS is where the ‘true believers’ ( C.D.Howe, Fraser Inst., & Conservatives across the land) in the ‘free market forces of supply & demand’ should stand up and demand “let the market be the market” with no government interference……no subsidies, no TFW’s. The all knowing market will fix everything.

    • Actually, Diane…

      The market will fix it, if given the chance. If you don’t have workers to cook your food, clean your floors, or do your dishes and serve your food, you will eventually go out of business.

      Simple really…….raise your starting wages, raise your prices to compensate, and given the wealth in Alberta, getting paying customers should not be a problem. For those companies that can’t cope….they will indeed fail and cease to exist, leaving the more competent to fill the void.

      Market works just fine when no one interferes with it.

    • Cons believe in the ‘free market’ even tho they listen to a govt budget twice a year. LOL

      • In actual fact Conservatives & corporations believe in the ‘free market’ for everyone BUT them.

        • Ahhhh ‘privatize the profits and socialize the losses’

          • Emily,

            you are aware (I hope) that it is the PRIVATE sector that actually creates wealth……no one else.

        • Dianne,

          If you insist on criticizing the free market……then perhaps you should do some work and find out what it actually means.

          your comments could have been lifted straight from some marxist pamphlet, but then again, I think that’s your main reference in any event.

      • Emily,

        It is the free market which has produced the most successful economies and culture. Just becaue you can’t cut it isn’t our fault…….

        find a mirror.

  3. We all know the cost-of-living in Alberta is much higher than it is in Ontario. or anywhere else for that matter.
    All these fastfood, and other restaurants in Alberta already charge 3 times more for the same Tim’s coffee, so let them pay their workers more too.
    For example, $20/hour in Alberta, will get you just as far as $14/hour in Ontario, by the time you factor in Alberta’s much more expensive cost-of-living,…these days. -and that ain’t much at all, -that’s almost poverty class.

    Therefore, it’s simple, Alberta restaurants have to pay higher starting wages. or else they’ll go out of business-as they will rightfully deserve.
    Problems solved.

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