Labour council challenges proposal for holiday shopping

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Jon Willing, Ottawa Citizen

City council would be making “a significant and major mistake” by allowing Glebe shops to open on six holidays, says Sean McKenny, president of the Ottawa and District Labour Council.

The labour group plans to ask the mayor and councillors to block a staff recommendation to make shopping legal in the Glebe on some statutory holidays.

And the organization says it would consider an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board if city council approves the measure.

The Glebe BIA has asked the city’s permission for retailers to open New Year’s Day, Family Day, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day and Thanksgiving Day, plus any future holidays declared by the province.

Council’s finance and economic development committee is inviting residents to weigh in on the shopping proposal at a meeting Tuesday. City council is scheduled to vote on the committee’s decision Feb. 10.

McKenny argues those are days families want to be together rather than be scheduled to work.

“It’s incumbent upon our city council to ensure that we have that piece in play in our city,” McKenny said.

McKenny said he’s concerned city council will allow other retail districts to open on holidays if the Glebe BIA receives permission.

Allowing more holiday shopping in the Glebe would be “in the interest of maintenance and development of tourism,” city staff write in a report outlining their support.

The provincial law says shops can be considered for exemptions if they are within two kilometres of a tourist destination and at least one-quarter of the shops rely on tourists visiting the attraction for business.

The city identifies the tourist attractions close to the Glebe as Lansdowne Park, the Rideau Canal and the Canadian Museum of Nature.

The city can decide which commercial areas are exempt under the provincial Retail Business Holidays Act. Five areas currently have exemptions: The ByWard Market, Rideau Centre, Rideau between Sussex and King Edward Ave., Loblaws on Rideau Street and the Sparks Street mall.

There are no exemptions in Ottawa for businesses to be open Christmas Day, Good Friday or Easter Sunday.

Until last October, no shopping district had filed an application to remain open on holidays since the 2001 municipal amalgamation.

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