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Chamber gears up for store hours referendum campaign

By: Sudbury Northern Life Staff

 | Aug 03, 2014 - 6:38 PM |
In addition to electing local politicians on Oct. 27, voters in Greater Sudbury will also vote on three referendum questions on whether to deregulate stores hours. File photo.

In addition to electing local politicians on Oct. 27, voters in Greater Sudbury will also vote on three referendum questions on whether to deregulate stores hours. File photo.

Deregulating retail stores hours part of municipal ballot on Oct. 27

 With the municipal election less than three months away, the battle over the referendum questions Sudburians will vote on at the same time is starting to heat up.

On Oct. 27, voters will not only choose a new mayor and a slate of city councillors and school board trustees, they will also decide whether to deregulate retail shopping hours, and lift bans on opening on holidays.


 In a news release, the Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce speculated whether this will be the last Civic Holiday in which local stores are forced to close.

“Although certain exemptions apply, the vast majority of retail businesses in Greater Sudbury will be forced to shut their doors this Monday and Sudburians may look elsewhere to shop,” the release said.

“This is not a provincial, but a municipal bylaw. The Provincial Retail Business Holiday Act, which requires retail businesses to close on nine specified days each year, excludes the Civic Holiday, Boxing Day as well as Family Day.”

The chamber has registered with the province to campaign on the 'yes' side of the referendum questions.

The chamber successfully challenged the city's proposed wording of the referendum questions in March of 2013, arguing that the language wasn't “clear, concise and neutral,” as required by provincial rules.

They have since been amended and now read: '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?'

While current Mayor Marianne Matichuk campaigned on a promise to deregulate store hours in Sudbury, the idea has been consistently rejected by a majority of city councillors since the 1990s.

Ward 5 Coun. Ron Dupuis, who's running for mayor in October, suggested the referendum as a way to settle the issue once and for all.

To be binding, at least 50 per cent of voters must participate in the referendum. Historically, voter turnout for municipal elections in Sudbury has been about 41 per cent, although the 2010 vote attracted 49.75 per cent of eligible voters.

In its news release, the chamber said it's time to end the debate.

“Deregulation is an issue we’ve been talking about for the past 20-plus years in Sudbury,” John Querney, owner of Querney’s Office Plus and co-chair of the chamber's deregulation working group, says in the release.

“Government should not be dictating how I run my business. You know what I’ll change if the bylaw is repealed? Nothing. I’ll keep my store hours the same because that’s what works best for my business. But this should be my choice.”

In addition to restrictions on holiday openings, city bylaws require most retail businesses to be closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., Monday through to Saturday, and between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m. on Sunday.

“North Bay has deregulated store hours -- this has not ruined the social fabric of the community or caused increased crime,” André Dumais, co-chair of the working group, says in the release. “It is about choice, and letting businesses run their establishment the way that works best for them.

“After all, non-retail businesses are free to open and close when they see fit. The same should apply for retail locations.”

The chamber is a registered lobbyist for the 2014 referendum. A Chamber survey released through Oraclepoll in 2010-11 indicated that almost two-thirds of Sudburians support letting store owners set their own hours of operation. In contrast, 30 per cent were opposed and four per cent were undecided.

For more information on the chamber’s deregulation campaign, visit http://sudburychamber.ca/4779-2/.
 

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