Shopping on Sunday

An issue that has been dominating the New Brunswick election and that might do the same in Nova Scotia when voters are called to the polls is the skyrocketing cost of auto insurance. However, in Nova Scotia, another issue that might (or ought to) surface is the Progressive Conservative government’s flipflop over Sunday shopping. For indeed, Nova Scotia is possibly the only remaining jurisdiction in North America where most Sunday shopping is prohibited by law. The PCs’ compromise, suspiciously proposed on the eve of an election, is to (a) have a 6-week trial of Sunday shopping before Christmas, and (b) hold a binding plebiscite during the Nova Scotia municipal elections in autumn 2004.

Early in this government’s mandate, Premier John Hamm declared a moratorium on the debate for Sunday shopping until 2005. Shortly afterwards, the New Brunswick PC government left it up to municipalities to apply for an exemption to that province’s Days of Rest Act. The City of Moncton, which is close to the border with Nova Scotia, obtained such an exemption. Now, many Nova Scotian shopaholics drive to the Hub City to satisfy their need for a shopping fix on Sunday.

In my opinion, it is silly to have such a thing as the Retail Business Uniform Closing Day Act in Nova Scotia. But what really gets on my tits is the thinly veiled reasoning for prohibiting Sunday shopping. The “best” arguments have been “to protect workers,” and that keeping stores closed on Sunday is meant to preserve “family values” and the “Nova Scotian Way of Life” — whatever those are. Why don’t these conservatives just come out and say that they’re trying to keep one last little vestige of Christian values within the state? If the state has any business determining when or not stores should be open — and I believe it doesn’t — why not legislate for all faiths? That would mean some stores would close on Saturday instead of Sunday, and so on.

For their part, many retailers are against Sunday shopping because it would mean having to pay more in salaries and merely spreading people’s shopping patterns over more hours. When my parents and sister came visiting a few weeks ago, we went to the Mic Mac Mall on the Dartmouth side of the harbour. It was Monday afternoon and we could have shot a canon several times without hitting anyone. Stands to reason: Most shoppers were at their 9 to 5 job. Besides, Monday is a notoriously dead day for retail.

Now let me allow for a minute that the provincial government should be sticking its nose into when stores should be open or not. Why not consider a formula whereby each retailer may chose not only to stay open or not, but also the day to remain close? Since Monday is a disaster for retailers because most shoppers are working, then allow them to close on Monday but open on Sunday when shoppers AREN’T working! That’s what my neighbourhood bakery does, for it is exempt under the Act due to its size.

What’s that? Oh, the general closing day has to be Sunday?

Well then, Premier Hamm. I just called your bluff.

As for the argument that Sunday closure is “to protect workers,” then why does the Nova Scotia Trade Union Act continue to be stacked in favour of employers and against workers? Ummm?

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