Jan 10, 2013- 2:49 PM
The chamber said in a news release that it believes the questions passed at the Dec. 11 council meeting are misleading.
The chamber said it has long supported the position that the municipal bylaws regulating store operating hours in Sudbury are unnecessary and that businesses should be able to operate as they see fit.
“Simply put, we believe the questions as passed do not satisfy Section 8.1 (1), paragraph 3 of the Municipal Elections Act,” said Debbi Nicholson, president and CEO of the GSCC. “Because the issue of deregulation is hotly contested and divisive, circumstances exist where unsubstantiated claims have created unnecessary fears and false understandings. It's got to the point where many residents don’t know that the real issue is and are unable to answer the questions as proposed by the city.”
The submission — filed just before Christmas — states that the posing of clear, concise and neutral questions is critical.
With respect to the first question, the chamber believes the use of the words “opening hours” is potentially misleading, in that it might lead to an answer that would still allow the city to restrict closing hours by bylaw. The chamber suggests “hours of operation” is more precise and clear.
In question two, the city’s proposed wording suggests that retail business establishments could be required to open on Dec. 26, rather than retailers having the choice to open or not to open. The current bylaw prohibits retailers from opening, which is a constraint that does not exist for similar business in neighbouring communities.
The wording of the proposed question demonstrates a bias on the part of the drafters, in that a positive response to the question suggests that retailers would be required to open on Dec. 26, rather than having a choice to open or not to open. The bias is a tacit encouragement for the voting public to vote in the negative, and is therefore not neutral, said the chamber.
Finally, with respect to the third question, the issue which should be put to the voting public is not whether or not a given business should or should not open on the Civic Holiday, but whether they should continue to be prohibited by bylaw from opening.
The current wording attempts to create a moral issue from an issue that should strictly be a matter of freedom of choice for an individual business, and this introduces an element of bias to the question, said the chamber.
“We believe that our proposed amendments add clarity to the questions and eliminate the bias inherent in the current wording,”Nicholson said. “We hope the CEO agrees and the public is able to vote having had the opportunity to fully grasp the issue at hand.”
It is expected that the Chief Electoral Officer will provide his decision by early March at the latest.