As you may have heard, Ottawa police are investigating a new Whole Foods in the city’s Lansdowne Park neighbourhood after a complaint came in that the organic grocery store was open on Good Friday. According to The Ontario Retail Business Holiday Act, Ontario stores are required to close their doors on nine major holidays throughout the year: New Years Day, Family Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. According to the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services website, the purpose of the law is to create “a balance between allowing businesses to remain open and providing consumers and employees with a common day of pause.” Businesses that do not comply with the provincial law can be subject to fines of up to $50,000.
There are retailers who are, however, allowed to remain open on these days including gas stations, pharmacies under 7,500 square feet in size, nurseries, flower shops and gardening centres, and stores located in specific tourism centres. The manager of the offending Whole Foods claims that they believed their store to be in one of these designated areas:
Prior to this week, we believed that Lansdowne Park was a designated tourist area and planned to remain open to serve the community and the attendees of an event at the arena. Once we discovered this was no longer the case, we felt we should honour our commitment to the community and remain open. Our team members voluntarily signed up to work and received double time wages for their time.
In 2007, the City of Toronto passed the Stronger City of Toronto for a Stronger Ontario Act overriding the Retail Business Holiday Act and allowing city council the power to establish their own rules for closing requirements for local establishments. In such a large and diverse city such as TO, it’s easy to understand why the Retail Business Holiday Act may not work. But Ontario is a diverse province so perhaps it is time to consider such changes in other centres as well. Accordingly, this week’s poll asks:
Should retailers be allowed to open their doors on holidays?
- Yes. (70%, 156 Votes)
- Only certain types of businesses. (20%, 44 Votes)
- No. (11%, 24 Votes)
Total Voters: 224
With employees being paid double time and having the option of volunteering to work, it does make you wonder what harm there is in keeping some stores open on holidays. While I’m not necessarily a fan of the crazy consumerism that comes with Christmas (I don’t even like to shop on Boxing
Day Week), if I choose to stay home, why can’t someone else choose to venture out? Then again, perhaps we do all need to take a moment to pause and focus on what really matters – being with our family and friends and taking the time to relax, read a book, watch a great movie or go for a walk.
We’d love to hear what you think about retailers and their freedom to choose when they will be open or closed. If we did pass such a bylaw in Kingston, or in Ontario in general, what stipulations must come with it? Should employees be forced to work on holidays or be given the option to stay at home? Drop off your comments below.
Photo credit: Nick Papakyriazis.