Grocers accuse province of 'regulatory abuse'
The lawyers for two grocery chains fighting Nova Scotia's Sunday shopping rules in court say the government has lost its ability to know right from wrong.
In his closing arguments Thursday, John Keith, who represents Atlantic Superstore, called the new regulations "regulatory abuse."
He challenged the province's argument that the Retail Business Uniform Closing Day Act is there to protect retail workers, pointing out "employee" or "worker" didn't appear in the act for 21 years.
"This case is not about the little guy," Keith said.
Sobeys lawyerDavid Farrar called the worker protection defence "disingenuous" and asked why thegovernment never passed regulations to protect retail workers in smaller stores.
"It's almost embarrassing to look at this as a citizen of Nova Scotia," Farrar said.
Turned to the court
Superstore and Sobeys turned to the court after cabinet approved regulations preventing stores from subdividing into smaller businesses.
The two grocery giants used this legal loophole in June to get around the law banning stores larger than 4,000 square feet from opening on Sunday.
On June 11, Superstore openedfive sections of its Barrington Street store in Halifax as separate businesses under one roof.
Sobeys restructured several stores the following Sunday.
Police were called to investigate, but the province's public prosecution service later saidSuperstore and Sobeyscouldn't be charged because the act does allow for some exceptions and the stores complied with the law.
As the grocery chains opened more stores on Sundays, the province moved to close the loophole.
Under the new regulations approved by cabinet in late June, grocers are not allowed to open on Sunday unless they reconfigured their businesses before June 1.
Sobeys and Superstore called the regulations discriminatory and unfair, and turned to the court to have them declared invalid.
In their submissions in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Wednesday, the chains argued cabinet didn't have the authority to approve the regulations.
The province argued the government enacted the Retail Business Uniform Closing Day Act to ensure retail workers aren't forced to work Sundays, and that cabinet can approve regulations as long as they conform to the spirit of the act.
"This legislation is about protecting retail employees whom the Supreme Court of Canada says need protection," Alex Cameron, lawyer for the province, told reporters Thursday after the submissions were over.
It could be months before Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Peter Richard renders his decision.