Following months of advocacy by Retail Council of Canada (RCC), the City of Fredericton has voted to allow retailers to determine the Sunday opening hours that work best for their businesses.  At its August 12th Council Meeting, Fredericton City Council passed a by-law to place responsibility for Sunday opening hours into the hands of retailers.  The bylaw takes effect immediately.

In recent months, RCC has had similar success with the City of Bathurst and the Town of Florenceville-Bristol in having these municipalities pass this retail friendly by-law.

Fredericton, Bathurst and Florenceville-Bristol now join with the New Brunswick cities of Moncton and Dieppe as well as the towns of Riverview, Grand Falls and Rexton as the municipalities in New Brunswick that do not dictate Sunday hours of operation to retailers. 

As municipalities throughout New Brunswick are responsible for Sunday opening hours, RCC’s Atlantic Office will continue to advocate for this change to occur in each of New Brunswick’s remaining municipalities.

In Prince Edward Island, the province is responsible for Sunday hours of operation and they also dictate Sunday opening hours.  Consequently, RCC advocacy efforts on this issue will continue to focus upon the PEI government.

Member To Do:

Take every opportunity to speak with elected officials (municipal officials in New Brunswick / provincial officials in Prince Edward Island) in the communities where you conduct your business to reinforce RCC messaging that it should be retailers, not governments, who determine the Sunday hours of operation that work best.

What RCC Did/Next Steps:

In New Brunswick, RCC is continuing to connect with cities, towns and villages to advocate on this issue of importance to retailers.  To date, RCC’s success has come from convincing local Chambers of Commerce / Boards of Trade to support RCC’s position.

In the short term, RCC will continue to focus its attention on the City of Saint John.  RCC has had recent meetings on this issue with the Saint John Board of Trade (BOT).  These meetings have been positive and have resulted in the BOT’s commitment to survey its membership on the issue.  RCC expects that the BOT will come to an official position on this issue by Fall 2013.  RCC is hopeful that it will be able to gain official support from the BOT before making a presentation to Saint John City Council on this issue of importance to retailers.

In Prince Edward Island, RCC has met with Hon. Janice Sherry, PEI’s Minister of Environment, Labour and Justice and senior staff from the Department of Labour.  The Minister and her Department remain unconvinced that changing the law would be beneficial to PEI workers and the ‘Island way of life’.  RCC has secured the support of the Greater Charlottetown & Area Chamber of Commerce on this issue and is working with the other Chambers of Commerce across the province to convince them of the benefit in allowing retailers to choose the Sunday opening hours that work best for their businesses.

In the coming months, RCC will refocus its efforts on bringing the Sunday opening hours issue in New Brunswick to the towns of Campbellton, Atholville and Edmundston.  RCC will continue its advocacy in Prince Edward Island with the Minister, her staff and the various Chambers of Commerce in PEI.

Background:

Prince Edward Island
Sunday opening hours in Prince Edward Island (PEI) are governed by the provincial government.  RCC has met with Hon. Janice Sherry, PEI’s Minister of Environment, Labour and Justice and senior staff from the Department of Labour.

The province of PEI currently allows Sunday opening hours but only starting at noon.  The Minister was willing to listen to RCC advocacy to allow retailers to set opening hours in the best interest of their businesses.  However, the province of PEI only brought in year round Sunday shopping in 2009 and the issue was extremely divisive for Islanders.  The Minister feels that due to the province’s reliance on retail related jobs, retail workers do not have the power to reject the request from retail managers for staff to work / work extended hours on Sundays as per legislation.  Despite RCC assurances, the Minister remains skeptical that increasing Sunday opening hours would be beneficial to retail workers and to the ‘Island way of life’.

RCC will be conducting a poll of its RCC Human Resources Committee to better understand retail employer practices regarding Sunday opening hours.  The poll will pay particular focus to retail employees working on Sundays and the need to respond to customer demand on Sundays.  RCC will provide the results of this survey to the Minister as further evidence of the need for government to allow retailers to make their own business decisions regarding Sunday opening hours.

New Brunswick
Sunday opening hours in New Brunswick (NB) are governed by municipal governments.  This creates a more challenging advocacy environment, as it involves multiple meetings with individual municipal governments while also dealing with the unique dynamics at play in each town / city.

As RCC began its advocacy on this issue in January 2013, the only municipal units that did not place restrictions on Sunday opening hours were the New Brunswick cities of Moncton and Dieppe as well as the New Brunswick towns of Riverview, Grand Falls and Rexton.  Virtually every other municipal unit in New Brunswick followed a common or similar municipal by-law, which only allowed retailers to be open on Sundays between the hours of noon and 5pm.

RCC’s advocacy has focused primarily on the larger towns / cities in the province and the corresponding Chambers of Commerce / Boards of Trade.  Early in the advocacy process, it became apparent that Municipal Councils in New Brunswick were not going to engage in the debate on Sunday opening hours unless they had the support of the local Chamber of Commerce / Board of Trade.  RCC has invested a significant amount of time engaging the local Chambers / Boards of Trade and the efforts are starting to produce positive results.

The following is a list of municipal units where a decision has been made or a decision is expected by Fall 2013:

  1. Florenceville-Bristol: Following a meeting with the Mayor and senior staff with the Town of Florenceville-Bristol, RCC spoke to members of the Florenceville-Bristol Chamber of Commerce on the issue.  Florenceville-Bristol is in close proximity to Houlton, Maine, which has a significantly larger retail sector and no restrictions on Sunday opening hours.  Following RCC’s advocacy, Florenceville-Bristol Council voted to change its by-law on April 9, 2013.  RCC has sent a letter of congratulations to the Mayor and Council.
     
  2. Bathurst: Following RCC advocacy, with the mayor and the Chamber of Commerce, Bathurst City Council voted to rescind its Sunday Opening Hours by-law on May 21, 2013.  Bathurst is the largest city in northern New Brunswick and the Mayor told RCC that he would like his city to become a retail hub, serving the people of New Brunswick and the Gaspe region of Quebec.  RCC has sent a letter of congratulations to the Mayor and Council. 
     
  3. Fredericton:  RCC addressed Fredericton City Council, met privately with the Mayor and communicated personally with several Councilors on this issue.  RCC also met with the executive of the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce and the Director of the Downtown Fredericton Business Association on this issue.  The Fredericton Chamber committed to conducting a poll of its members on Sunday opening hours. The poll showed that a majority of its members agree with the RCC position.  City staff engaged stakeholders on the issue and recommended to Council that Sunday opening hours should be left to the discretion of the retailer. On August 12, 2013, City Council voted to rescind its Sunday Opening Hours by-law.  The bylaw takes effect immediately.  RCC has sent a letter of congratulations to the Mayor and Council.
     
  4. Saint John:  Despite numerous attempts to arrange meetings with Saint John City Councilors only one Councilor was willing to speak with RCC on this issue.  The Mayor and all other Councilors stated that they wanted to first receive an opinion from the Saint John Board of Trade on the issue.  The Saint John Board of Trade (BOT) did not wish to discuss the issue until it had finished analyzing the issue with its Retail Committee members.  The executive of the Board of Trade expected the Retail Committee to send them an internal report of their recommendations on this issue.  Instead, the Retail Committee released their recommendation to the public.  The recommendation stated that although many retail members of the Board of Trade agreed with the RCC position in principle, the committee felt that there is not enough member support to recommend a change.  Furthermore, the Committee felt that a potential expansion of Sunday opening hours could force small retailers into working longer hours, which they felt would be bad for small retailers.  RCC was finally permitted to address the BOT on July 15, 2013.  Following RCC’s presentation at that meeting, many BOT members changed their opinion and are now speaking in favor of RCC’s position.  RCC will continue to work with the BOT on this important issue.

    RCC has conducted a significant number of media interviews with Saint John and New Brunswick based media on this issue.  The media could not understand why the Board of Trade was initially not in favor of the RCC position.  RCC’s media attention on the issue, combined with the arrival of a new BOT Executive Director in Saint John has helped turn the tide of support among BOT members.  There is still a lot of work to do with the BOT as it is imperative that RCC gains the BOT’s support.  Saint John City Council will not discuss the Sunday opening hours issue without the endorsement of the BOT.  Despite the position of Saint John City Council, RCC has found an ally in Saint John City Councilor, Susan Fullerton.  Councilor Fullerton has been very helpful in providing RCC with information regarding her fellow Councillors’ views and in expressing both her personal and RCC’s messaging on this issue.
     

  5. Woodstock: Woodstock is a service town and a border town (with USA) in southwestern New Brunswick.  In a combined meeting with the Mayor, CAO and the Chair of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce, it was agreed that Woodstock businesses are losing customers to stores across the border in Houlton, Maine.  It was also agreed that many New Brunswickers from the Woodstock area shop in Maine on Sunday mornings and Sunday evenings.  Despite the encouraging statements at the meeting, it was also noted that communities in the Woodstock area are quite religious and thus, it would be difficult to convince the public of the need to increase Sunday opening hours.  Despite RCC’s efforts, it was not a surprise when RCC recently received a letter from the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce that its members are not in favour of allowing retailers to determine the Sunday opening hours that are best for their businesses.  The letter from the Chamber was quickly followed by communication from the Town of Woodstock that Council would not entertain a proposal to change Sunday opening hours without the support of the Chamber.
     
  6. Miramichi: RCC met with the Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Miramichi and also with representatives of the Miramichi Chamber of Commerce.  The CAO suggested that Miramichi City Council would likely not want to discuss this issue without the endorsement of the Miramichi Chamber of Commerce.  RCC met with the Miramichi Chamber in February 2013.  The Miramichi Chamber does not have many retail members.  Of its retail members, most are small businesses.  The Chamber spokesperson for the retail sector is a small retailer who is completely opposed to Sunday shopping.  He was not receptive to RCC’s advocacy to allow retailers to determine their own Sunday hours of operation.  As an influential member of the Miramichi Chamber of Commerce, this small retailer was able to convince the Chamber to not endorse RCC’s advocacy on this issue.
     
  7. Campbellton, Atholville, Edmunston: RCC has written to each of these towns and their corresponding Chambers of Commerce.  RCC has yet to receive communication from these town / Chambers of Commerce.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact: Jim Cormier, Director (Atlantic) at:  [email protected] or (902) 422-4144