City council gave first reading to a new Sunday shopping bylaw July 16 that will allow for Sunday morning shopping rather than waiting for noon, as is the case now, if a business wishes to open on a Sunday.
The expanded hours, if council chooses adopt them, are available because of recent provincial amendments to The Retail Businesses Holiday Closing Act, which sets out the hours most retail businesses are able to be open on Sundays, general holidays and other days such as Easter Sunday and Remembrance Day. The amendments to the act take force Aug. 1.
If passed, the bylaw will allow for retail businesses to be open between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sundays, rather than the previous hours of noon to 6 p.m.
Some retail businesses are able to be open without a bylaw change, including restaurants, pharmacies, Laundromats, boat and motor vehicle repair and service shops, and businesses that regularly operate with fewer than four employees including the owner.
Thompson is one of only a handful of Manitoba municipalities that has a Sunday shopping bylaw in place, along with Winnipeg, Brandon and Portage La Prairie.
Coun. Luke Robinson questioned the rationale for the bylaw when it was brought forth, asking whether this would take away from family time.
The proposed bylaw does not require stores be open on Sundays; each business owner can decide whether to be open or closed. The bylaw does not obligate retail businesses to operate for three extra hours Sunday morning; it simply gives them the freedom to do so where they couldn’t before.
Employees of retail businesses are also given the option to refuse Sunday work, provided that they give 14 days notice to their employer. For employees who may have been unaware of the bylaw, they are able to refuse work for the first two Sundays following Aug. 1, but are required to give their employer as much notice as is reasonable.
The Thompson Chamber of Commerce sent out a mass e-mail, asking each of its 171 members what they thought of the new Sunday shopping bylaw. The response was underwhelming to say the very least, with a mere five total responses.
The responses that were received were divided, with one respondent in favor, one not in favor, one who made no comment, one who responded that they were on the side of whatever city council decided, and one response of “how much time do people need to shop?”
Second and third readings of the bylaw will likely take place at the next scheduled meeting of council on Aug. 13.