Saint John council punts Sunday shopping debate

Saint John retailers will continue to be restricted in the hours they can open on Sundays after city council punted the controversial discussion until a future date.

Coun. Raw Strowbridge wants more public input before changing bylaw

Saint John retailers will continue to be restricted in the hours they can open on Sundays after city council postponed the controversial discussion until a future date.

The Saint John Board of Trade presented its findings to city councillors at a meeting on Monday night that showed 85.1 per cent of the businesses that responded to a survey supported the idea of relaxing the rules on Sunday shopping.

The Saint John Board of Trade asked its members if they were open to flexible rules on when they could open on Sundays. Roughly 85 per cent of its respondents said they wanted the rules to change.

But the internal survey’s findings were not enough for council to take action.

The business group sent surveys to 543 companies but fewer than half of those members responded.

Coun. Ray Strowbridge said the low response rate in the group’s survey concerned him.

“I'm not going to make decisions for them because if it's not broke, don't fix it,” Strowbridge said.

“And they're not telling me that it's broke.”

A city bylaw says businesses are only allowed to be open from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

Saint John council decided against getting city staff to review the bylaw that restricts the hours businesses can open on Sundays.

Instead, the politicians have postponed the debate until council can have a more comprehensive discussion.

Saint John council wants more public input on the idea of changing its Sunday shopping hours.

Meanwhile, municipalities, such as Bathurst, Fredericton and Moncton, have all opened up their bylaws to give their businesses the freedom to pick when they want to open their stores on Sundays.

Many councillors have asked for more public input before making a decision on altering the bylaw.

But Coun. Shirley McAlary said she was uneasy with the idea of the city giving businesses the right to set their own hours.

“The hours are 12 [p.m.] to 5 [p.m.]. I think it's better for the employees. I think it gives people plenty of time to shop and I think it's consistent for the public,” she said.


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