Following years of Retail Council of Canada (RCC) advocacy, the Nova Scotia government has finally made the regulatory change to allow the retail sector to always honour Canada Day on July 1st. Prior to this regulation, Nova Scotia retailers were obliged to follow the federal Holidays Act, which stated that when Canada Day falls on a Sunday, the employer must provide its employees with a paid holiday on July 2. The federal Holidays 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.
Canada Day 2018 will fall on a Sunday thus; the regulatory change was timely. Without this change, Canada Day 2018 would have been a regular retail business day, yet most retailers would have been forced to close on July 2, 2018 while providing their employees with a paid day off.
Retailers and retail workers applaud this regulatory change as it will allow retail workers and managers to celebrate the Canada Day 2018 festivities with family and friends. Being open for business on Monday, July 2, 2018 could be profitable for retailers as most government workers and employees who work traditional hours (Monday to Friday) will be given a paid day off on Monday, July 2, 2018. This paid day off will be compensation for the fact that Canada Day 2018 falls on a non-work day.
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. Now that Nova Scotia has made the regulatory change, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador are the only Atlantic provinces that do not have such legislation / regulation.
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.
Newfoundland and Labrador: The government does not believe that the federal Holidays Act applies to them. Therefore, 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. The government does have legislation that refers to July 1st as Memorial Day and Canada Day. It is unclear as to whether the legislative reference to Memorial Day is enough to counteract the obligation for the province to follow the federal Holiday’s Act given that the provincial legislation also references Canada Day
Prince Edward Island: The government 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.
RCC will use the regulatory change in Nova Scotia to push for a similar change in New Brunswick. The chances are now slim of affecting positive change before July 1, 2018. However, New Brunswick will hold its provincial election in September 2018 thus, RCC encourages all members with stores in New Brunswick to voice their concerns to the New Brunswick government on this matter. Earlier this year, RCC provided members with templated letters to send to MLAs on this issue. Should RCC members require this letter, please contact RCC.