Canada Day 2018 will fall on a Sunday which creates problems for the retail industry in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. In these provinces, July 1, 2018 will be a regular business day while most retailers will have to provide employees with a paid holiday on July 2, 2018. 

For years, Retail Council of Canada (RCC) has been advocating for these governments to make the required changes that would eliminate this unnecessary red tape, allow the retail sector to honour holidays on the day they fall; and permit retailers to be open for business on Monday, July 2, 2018.

RCC is optimistic that its efforts will soon lead to these changes being made in Nova Scotia. Regrettably, the New Brunswick government has once again stated that it will not change its legislation.

Background:

The federal Holidays Act states that when Canada Day falls on a Sunday, the employer must provide its employees with a paid holiday on July 2. This Act was intended to only apply to employees who work from Monday to Friday and harkens back to a time when retail businesses were not permitted to open on Sundays.

If a province does not have legislation / regulation in place to allow the retail sector to honour holidays on the day they fall, the federal Holidays Act applies. In Atlantic Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador do not have such legislation / regulation. Newfoundland and Labrador does not believe that the federal Holidays Act applies to them and thus, retailers in this province will be closed on July 1, 2018 and open on July 2, 2018. Newfoundland and Labrador appears to be the only province that does not believe that the federal act applies to their province.

Prince Edward Island has legislation in place that recognizes Canada Day as a statutory holiday but not a retail closing day. In PEI, retailers can be open on Canada Day, but they must provide premium pay (time and a half). PEI retailers will also be open on July 2nd.

In the rest of Canada, most provincial governments have made legislative / regulatory changes that recognize the fact that retail is now a seven-day a week business for most retail shop owners. The provincial changes allow retail business to honour holidays on the day they fall.

What RCC Did/Next Steps:

In New Brunswick, RCC has met with numerous cabinet Ministers, Premiers and senior bureaucrats regarding this issue since 2012. RCC has consistently encountered resistance from both Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments towards making this seemingly simple change. In New Brunswick, provincial politicians are often sensitive about taking any action related to conducting business on Sundays. In fact, the provincial government has ceded much of its authority regarding Sunday hours of operation for the retail sector to New Brunswick municipalities. Adding to the challenge is the fact that in New Brunswick, the Canada Day issue cannot be changed through regulation and thus, would require amendments to both The Days of Rest Act and the Employment Standards Act. Provincial governments do not like to open the Employment Standards Act as employment related issues can be sensitive, varied and are not often easy to fix. When governments begin to debate changes to employment standards, stakeholder groups often use the opportunity to demand changes to other employment related issues. The current New Brunswick government is heading into an election this fall and thus, they do not want to open the Employment Standards Act before going to the electorate. This has been frustrating for RCC as it has spent years advocating for government to make such a change before entering the election season.

In Nova Scotia, RCC has also been working on this issue since 2012. RCC continues to make progress on the issue. The provincial government understands the problem, but they want to ensure that retail workers will be supportive of such change. This week, the government will be sending select retailers a link to a 2-question survey on this issue. The government does not have time to conduct an extensive survey and thus, they will ask the selected retailers to send this link directly to the retailer’s Nova Scotia employees. The first question will ask if employees support a possible regulatory change that would allow them to have their Canada Day holiday on Sunday, July 1, 2018 instead of Monday July 2, 2018. The second question will ask retail employees who may have to work on holidays (e.g. stocking shelves / working for a retailer that can be open on holidays) if they would support receiving their premium pay (time and a half) on Sunday, July 1, 2018 or Monday July 2, 2018. 

I would ask RCC members to notify me if they receive the survey. It is likely that the survey will only be ‘live’ for 2 weeks - therefore, I would encourage participating members to explain to their employees the importance of providing feedback to this 2-question survey. Retailers should state clearly that employers will not see the survey responses nor will they know which employees completed the survey. If the survey response favours change, the government has suggested that a regulatory change could be made next month. This would allow time for retailers to make administrative adjustments before July 1st. 

RCC encourages all members with stores in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to voice their concerns to their respective provincial governments. RCC has included its most recent letter to the New Brunswick and Nova Scotia governments on this issue – English only. RCC also has developed templated letters for interested members to send to the appropriate cabinet ministers in each province. The letters ask for the necessary changes that will protect the retail industry and only oblige retailers to close on the day in which a statutory holiday falls. If members wish to access one of the letters, please contact RCC at the coordinates listed below.

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