Stores in Toronto will be able to open their doors on Victoria Day — but that will be it for the expansion of holiday shopping in Toronto, if council goes along with economic development committee recommendations at the end of the month.
The recommendations represent a major backpedaling from a staff recommendation to the committee — one that would have extended holiday shopping letting retailers stay open Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day and Thanksgiving Day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Stores would have stayed closed on Christmas Day, New Years Day, Family Day, Easter Sunday and Good Friday.
The recommendations were a result of an extensive review of holiday shopping standards province-wide. The city conducted public consultations and also surveyed other municipalities. Toronto has been in control of holiday shopping rules since 2006, and the survey has been going on since then.
Staff found that in Ontario, 81 municipalities allow holiday shopping, and the number is increasing.
And there is holiday shopping allowed in several designated tourist districts in Toronto: the Eaton Centre, Queen’s Quay Terminal and Bloor Yorkville.
The staff recommendations came after retailers in other part of the city, as well as mall owners, urged the city to create a more level playing field for holiday opening.
But the committee heard from retail workers and unions representing them, who argued that wide-open holiday shopping would lead to minimum-wage-earning retail workers losing precious time with their families.
“Retail workers see this as just another attack on their hard-earned rights,” said Roland Lapins, from a union representing grocery store workers.
“The decision to open Sundays has simply diluted sales volume over a seven day period. This will not make more available hours for workers — it just adds to another day they must be available for work.”
Retail worker Philippe Lavoie said that as a young part-time worker he thought it would be impossible to refuse hours during statutory holidays that he would otherwise use to visit his father in Kingston.
“If we made enough money to make ends meet, this would be a non-issue,” he said. “This may sound harsh but I feel like I’m being blackmailed.”
Hailey King, another part-time retail worker, said the holidays give retailers “some stability” in their schedules.
“In my store, schedules for part-timers change each and every week,” she said. “I am scheduled for between 10 and 20 hours a week. I want to work more because it’s very hard to make ends meet working 10 hours a week on minimum wage, so I try to make myself available as often as I can. But this does feel like blackmail. I don’t want to work these days and I don’t see that changing this will do anything for anybody but big time business.”
The committee weighed staff recommendations against a more moderate course recommended by a subcommittee on holiday shopping.
Toronto-Danforth Councillor Mary Fragedakis, who chaired the subcommittee, said she received very little input from the public demanding that shopping be expanded.
“A lot of people who have spoken to the issue told me that family is important to them — holidays area part of family and many consider them sacred,” she said. “They argued they didn’t want to lose their family days — a pause that gives people time to spend time with those who matter to them.”
The committee also voted to allow larger pharmacies to remain open on holidays, in deference to several larger-footprint Shopper’s Drug Mart franchises whose owners said they were being unfairly targeted.