Friday, January 11, 2008

Family Day store opening concerns

Local concerns over Ontario’s new Family Day go beyond the $60,000 municipal cost of the holiday for Timmins taxpayers, as The Timmins Times first reported back in December.
It now appears that are local retailers who want to be open for business on Monday February 18, when Family Day it will be celebrated in Ontario.
The Family Day holiday was declared as a last-minute election promise by the McGuinty Liberals in a bid to win the October 10, 2007 provincial election.
With Family Day being declared an official statutory holiday in Ontario, it means the day is likely subject to the rules of the Retail Business Holiday Act.
Timmins city clerk Jack Watson confirmed local retailers are asking questions.
“Some retailers have inquired, yes, about being able to open with having any repercussions,” Watson told The Times.
In some municipalities in Ontario, retailers are allowed to open for business if their city or town is declared a “tourist destination area”.
“We (Timmins) have not declared ourselves a tourist destination area,” said Watson. “There’s a lot more to it than that.”
At least one advocacy group, the Retail Council of Canada (RCC), is lobbying to give retailers the right to choose whether to be open on the stat holiday.
Diane J. Brisebois, the RCC’s President and CEO has sent on open letter to all municipalities in Ontario.
“If municipal 'tourist destination area' by-laws are not up-to-date to include Family Day as a day for retail stores in these special areas to open, there will be significant confusion in the marketplace, frustrated visitors to our communities and lost dollars at a time when Ontario's economy is facing a number of challenges,” Brisbois wrote.
Watson says his office will make inquries on behalf of the local retailers to see if there are any options.
“We are looking into it with retail people with the province to determine whether or not stores can open,” Watson said, adding that if the new holiday has not yet been given formal assent from the office of the Lieutenant Governor, there may be a loophole.
“We are going to double check with the Attorney General’s office to get a ruling,” he said.
“We don’t regulate store hours here in Timmins. We got away from that years ago,” said Watson
He added though if a local retailer was to open for business, contrary to the Act, and if there was a complaint, Timmins police would be obliged to investigate.
The minimum fine for a retailer convicted of opening in defiance of the RBHA is $500 for a first offence, $2,000 for a second offence, and $5,000 for a third or subsequent offence. Retailers can be fined up to $50,000 or the total amount of gross sales for the holiday – whichever is greater, according to the Queen’s Park website.

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