Retailers wishing to open on statutory holidays were given a slight reprieve at city hall today when committee members voted to allow shopping on Victoria Day.

However the committee voted against having retailers open on Canada Day, Labour Day and Thanksgiving Day.

Both decisions will be debated once again at the end of the month when the matter goes before city council.

The economic development committee debated a staff report Thursday that suggests all retailers be given the choice to open on Victoria Day, between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Under existing laws, the only stores that are allowed to open on statutory holidays, including Christmas Day, are those in five designated tourism zones and those of a certain type or size, including grocery and convenience stores, pharmacies, gas stations and licensed businesses.

The staff report, prepared by Michael Williams, the city’s general manager of economic development and culture, suggests the city amend those rules to create a level playing field.

Three committee members voted in favour of allowing retail shopping on Victoria Day. Two voted against the idea.

Conversely, three of the members voted against expanding holiday shopping laws to include the other statutory days, whereas only two members supported the idea.

For the changes to take effect, they must be approved by city council as a whole. City council is scheduled to debate the matter at its Nov. 27 meeting.

If city hall approves the recommendation, retailers that are located outside designated tourism zones and those that don’t meet certain requirements will be required to remain closed on the five remaining public holidays: New Year's Day, Family Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Christmas Day.

Retailers, staff speak out

This isn’t the first time city council has explored potential changes to its holiday shopping laws. City council reviewed the matter in 2006, 2008 and 2010.

During consultations, some retailers complained of an uneven playing field under the existing laws.

The purpose of the latest review is to develop a fair and equitable solution, Williams wrote in his report.

Still, not everyone is happy with the proposal.

The Canadian Auto Workers Local 414 previously spoke out against expanded holiday shopping hours, arguing workers are generally paid minimum wage and deserve time off from an erratic schedule.

In addition to consultations with retailers and other stakeholders, the review also took a look at the rules in place in other municipalities.

According to the report, there are 81 municipalities in southern Ontario that permit holiday shopping.

Of those, more than 60 per cent apply an exemption to the entire city, and at least 90 per cent of stores are open on Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day and Thanksgiving Day, the study found.

“The number of municipalities that permit shopping on public holidays is increasing,” Williams wrote in his report.

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