Greater Sudbury Mayor Marianne Matichuk

One of Sudbury's most contentious issues is a step closer to being decided by the voters.

City council is looking into holding a referendum on regulating store hours.

Greater Sudbury is the only city in Ontario with a bylaw telling stores when they can open and close. Changing that was a key part of Mayor Marianne Matichuk's platform during the 2010 election.

But, at Tuesday night's council meeting, she and councillor Doug Craig were the only two votes against the referendum.

"I feel it's council's job to do this," Matichuk said. "We've had numerous ... polls and things that I think we could use instead of putting it on a referendum."

Report due before fall

City councillor Frances Caldarelli said it was time to put the store hours debate to rest.

"We can say that this is a cop out ... well, perhaps it is," Caldarelli said. "I mean I'm quite willing to debate it any time. But the thing is, I think people really want the issue settled."

Staff has been ordered to prepare a report on the possibility of holding a referendum on regulating store hours. The report, which will be out before fall, will include estimated costs. However, a referendum is not expected to be expensive, as it would just be an extra ballot during the next municipal election in 2014.

The store hours referendum would still need provincial approval before being added to the ballot for next municipal election in 2014.