Retail | The debate about opening times invites itself into the election campaign?

A parish war and great inequalities. This is feared by merchants’ associations, who fear Quebec will adopt a new version of Bill 44 the day after the elections, giving cities the responsibility to determine the opening hours of shops on their territory.

Posted at 6:00 am

Nathaelle Morissette

Nathaelle Morissette
The press

The bill, tabled in June just before the conclusion of parliamentary negotiations – which died on the order paper – brought to the fore the whole debate over business hours and a possible return to the Sunday closure.

“It doesn’t last,” says Linda Goulet, President of Panda Shoes Stores, when asked for the bill. “It has to be a provincial law, not a municipal one,” she says. Otherwise there is competition between the cities. It will be a war at loggerheads. If you have a network of around twenty branches, how do you manage it? »

“If the government gives that to the cities, I’m a bit afraid that it will lead to regional inequalities,” agrees Paul-André Goulet, owner of 10 Sports Experts Stores. “The only thing the government must not do is create injustices, as was the case with the vaccination card, which only needed shops of 1,500 square meters to introduce it. Opening times should be the same for everyone. »

The Retail Council of Canada (RCCC) also opposes this idea, noting in particular that managing opening hours and schedules is already a headache for retailers due to labor shortages.

“Technically, we could have about 1,000 municipalities that would say on Sunday we’re closing, in other cases it would be on Monday,” adds Michel Rochette, President of the CCCD for Quebec. Bill 44 would ensure that the daily risk of a tile would be on such a region, such a city, such a company, such a sector. »

This would particularly affect the ability of young people to work at weekends. If he cannot work in city X on Sundays, he could choose to work elsewhere in another sector.

Michel Rochette, President of the CCCD for Quebec

Bill 44 aims to “reduce regulatory and administrative burdens”. In particular, Article 4.2 states: “A local authority may, by law, provide for admission to any commercial establishment situated within its territory different hours and days than those specified by law in Article 4.1. . These hours and days may vary according to the season or the facilities covered therein or the portion of the territory of the municipality concerned.”

“Each city has the right to do as it pleases with any trade through regulatory means,” summarizes Mr. Rochette. Although this bill was not passed, he believes that it still sends a “clear message” with its proposal.

“He wasn’t dropped in June for nothing, he should send a signal. In this context, on the eve of the Quebec election campaign, the CCCD began a series of meetings with the various political parties to make it clear to them that they considered this project “no point”.

“The fact that the power to set opening hours is being delegated to 1,000 municipalities is unacceptable,” emphasizes Michel Rochette. We have told the political parties that this is an example of what not to do. »

communities applaud

For its part, the Association of Quebec Municipalities (UMQ), which welcomed the bill’s submission, does not share the merchants’ views and concerns. “We stand for municipal autonomy,” recalls Patrick Lemieux, spokesman for the UMQ. The invoice met our requirements. »

He assures that the 1110 municipalities of the province will apply the rules of opening “with discernment”. “This will not happen without taking local realities into account,” assures Mr. Lemieux. Municipalities are in direct contact with their merchants. »

“The idea of ​​giving municipalities more flexibility to extend the legal opening hours of shops is certainly interesting,” said Charles Milliard, president and CEO of the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec (FCCQ), in a press release issued June. “The current legal opening hours framework across Quebec is rigid, allowing for few exceptions for the tourism sector or in connection with specific events. »

“In any debate about business hours and days, we intend to defend the rights of business owners: No relapse into legal business hours should be allowed, be it by the Quebec government or local communities,” he said.

Debate on opening hours

What is certain is that the introduction of Bill 44 will revive the business hours debate. If opinions are mixed on how to manage the timetables, particularly with regard to the closing of shops on Sunday, everyone agrees that consultations must take place.

“We are open to discussion, but we really need to measure all impacts and not do this at the corner of the table,” says Jean-Guy Côté, director general of the Conseil Québécois du commerce de retail (CQCD). .

“We would like to have a preliminary talk before it comes back to the table. This is a broader issue than just delegating to municipalities, he adds. You don’t do that with two or three amendments in a discharge bill. There is a law about opening times. If you want to revise it, sit down with your partners and discuss with them. »

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