Mark Mancini, the vice-president of issues with the Students General Association, said the SGA executive made store hours part of their “advocacy strategy,” which also includes trying to get better and more frequent Sudbury Transit service along routes with high student population.
“We're in support of the deregulation of store hours, so businesses have the choice to set their own hours,” Mancini said Monday. “It's not that 24-hour shopping would be mandated, but businesses would have the choice to determine their own hours.”
Mancini said the new downtown school of architecture will bring hundreds of new students to the area, creating a larger population of young people who must balance class and work schedules.
“The city is quickly becoming known as a hub of post-secondary education in the North,” he said. “We're really, really passionate about making sure that the economic marketplace keeps up with the status in the city ... Right now, we feel like the current situation is not conducive to that. It's very restrictive.”
Students often work with crazy schedules and must try and balance part-time jobs with classes. So it would be a significant benefit to them to be able to shop whenever they need to, he said.
“A lot of students have classes on Tuesday and Thursday night until 10 p.m. By the time they get downtown on the bus ... their opportunities to shop are pretty slim. That's a cold, hard fact.
“And if you couple that with the fact that many students work in between their classes ... that makes it even more difficult.”
As Sudbury's post-secondary student population grows, Mancini said it's important that groups like the SGA advocate for issues that are important to them. But he knows they're wading into the middle of an issue that has pitted much of the business community on one side, and the labour community on the other.
The fact he's an executive with the local Conservative Party automatically casts him in the pro-business camp, something he readily admits. But, he said, it's a position adopted by the executive not in a partisan way, but as something any other “big university town” has already embraced and moved past a long time ago.
“That's a comment that's going to be made, perhaps fairly,” he said, of his Conservatives. “But that is not the genesis of this -- I really want to stress that ... I was but one voice around the table.
“We really think deregulation is one step in that direction, a step towards creating a progressive, modern city in the 21st Century.”
While most students aren't on campus this time of year, they have reacted on social media – and not all in support.
“We've had a lot of students who are in favour of the decision – a lot of them work long hours in shift work. They're pretty enthusiastic about it,” he said. “There were certainly students who voiced concern, who looked at it from a labour perspective. We engaged them on those concerns.”
It was a reaction they expected, Mancini said, since it's such a divisive issue. But he said it was important for the SGA to take a stand because of the growing role post-secondary students play in Sudbury's economy.
“We're trying to make the SGA into a real voice for students – not only at Laurentian, but in the community.”
City council voted in December 2012 to put the issue of whether to deregulate store hours to a vote in the 2014 municipal election. Labour groups in the city argue it's unfair to force low-paid retail workers to work extended hours.
Business groups say it should be up to the marketplace and individual store owners to decide when they open and close.
After a successful appeal by the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, the questions on the 2014 ballot will be:
Are you in favour of retail business establishments having the choice to open to the public on Dec. 26;
Are you in favour of retail business establishments having the choice to open to the public on the Civic Holiday, the first Monday in August;
and, Are you in favour of allowing retail business establishments to choose the hours when they are open to the public?