Government has announced its intentions with respect to Sunday shopping in the province. Oliver Langdon, Minister of Environment and Labour, tabled a bill in the House of Assembly that would allow Sunday shopping by removing the current restrictions within the Shops Closing Act.
The Department of Environment and Labour administers the Shops Closing Act which regulates the days in which businesses can operate, including Sundays and certain mandatory holidays. The act also provides exemptions allowing certain shops such as convenience stores, drug stores, cinemas and restaurants to open on these days to serve the public.
Mr. Langdon said: "Government has decided to minimize its intervention in the marketplace with respect to Sunday shopping. We do not presently regulate hours of operation on Sundays for any other group of workers, including for example, people in the insurance or real estate industry, fisherpersons, workers in private schools or construction workers. Why then should we regulate retail workers."
In the course of its review, the Department of Environment and Labour reviewed the situation in other provinces and conducted surveys of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to obtain the views of the people on this issue. The result is that the majority of the citizens of this province want to be able to shop on Sunday if shop owners wish to open for business on that day. Mr. Langdon emphasized that government is not requiring businesses to open on Sundays, but merely removing that legislative obstacle.
Other provinces such as British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Yukon and the Northwest Territories have no provisions regulating the opening of stores on Sunday. Quebec allows stores to open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday and New Brunswick permits store openings on Sundays from Labour Day to Christmas.
Society has changed significantly over the years and therefore, government must be ready to accommodate such change. Work patterns have changed significantly as fewer and fewer people are working the traditional workweek. Today, the tourist season extends beyond the months of June to September. More and more people are visiting the province during the winter months, particularly in our skiing locations. Government must be responsive to such changes. In doing so, government has determined that there is no longer a need to regulate Sundays as a holiday.
Government is of the view that businesses and their employees are in the best position to resolve issues around Sunday shopping, as they are for other work related issues. "Government's role in this matter," said Mr. Langdon, "is to ensure workers' basic rights are protected, and we do this through legislation such as the Labour Standards Act and the Human Rights Code."
If the bill is passed in the House of Assembly, the changes will come into effect on January 1, 1998. Government intends to enforce the current legislation from now until the amendment comes into effect.