It will be no business as usual on statutory holidays for many retail outlets in Quinte West.
In a recorded vote Monday night, council unanimously voted down implementing an exemption bylaw allowing retail businesses to be open on Victoria Day, Canada Day, and Labour Day after a trio of business owners denounced the proposal.
“We don’t want our employees working on holidays,” expressed Mike Eden owner of Leon’s Furniture Trenton and Custom Carts. “We want them at home on holidays with their families. Consumption is not going to go up on holidays.”
He said opening businesses on holidays would be a slippery slope.
“When I was a kid stores were open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, open Saturday and closed on Sunday,” he recalled. “Now we are open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and we’ve lost Sunday. We’ve never had more access to things. You can shop online. We are losing family time. Young people just starting out are affected the most. We should show them we can have a life style we can be proud of.”
John Smylie, owner of Trenton’s Smylie’s Independent Grocer agreed families should be together on the holidays. He said he felt the change was retail driven and he didn’t feel the community should be pushed into ‘big town changes”. He admitted his revenue wouldn’t increase and it would cost him $200 per employee at time and a half.
Clarence Blakely owner of Fresh Co. echoed Smylie’s sentiments on the high labour costs.
“We don’t do a lot of business like major outlet stores,” said Blakely. “We don’t have deep pockets. We should be closed on those days to celebrate what’s important. We need to hold our values and have those days open.”
Councillor Allan DeWitt who is a member of the Bay of Quinte Regional Tourism and Marketing Board said when he made the motion it was directed at tourism industries that ‘might want to be open’ to drive even more tourism dollars.
Quinte West chamber manager Suzanne Andrews who was in attendance said this is the third time this issue has come up in 11 years and they always get a mixed response from business owners but this is the first time it has come to council. She pointed to a recent survey penned by the City in partnership with the Trenton DBIA and chamber that showed varied responses.
Councillor Duncan Armstrong spoke up and said he talked to 12 business owners earlier that day who admitted they don’t want to open on holidays because they value family time and it would create undue strain on the employee/employer relationship.
Armstrong who also sits on the Canada 150 committee pointed to how Canada Day is a family day.
“I would be sad if a kid couldn’t go to the celebration because their mom or dad had to work,” he said.
“This is a family community,” said Councillor Sally Freeman who agreed she didn’t see any justification for bringing the bylaw forward in the same year as Canada’s 150th birthday celebration.