A referendum on store hours in Sudbury is still a few steps away from being on the municipal election ballot in 2014.

But the two sides in the long-running debate are standing their ground — and both are painting themselves as the underdog.

A proposal to hold a referendum on the issue will be voted on by city council next month.

It would need provincial approval before the ballots are printed.

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Andre Dumais

Andre Dumais was Chamber of Commerce chair during the last round of the so-called "Store Wars."

He said he doesn't think the debate would turn ugly if the question is put to the voters.

"I don't suspect it's going to be this really big, ‘us versus them,’" Dumais said. "I think it's going to fairly low-key, with some clarified points — and hopefully some intelligent debate."

Ontario law stipulates a referendum only counts if 50 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot.

In 2010, Sudbury's voter turnout was 49.75 per cent.

Reaching voters will be key to victory. Big unions will have the upper hand in this regard, Dumais said.

"[Unions have] a little bit more clout and a little more experience in getting out the vote and bringing people their message," he said.

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John Closs

He noted the big unions are better organized and have more cash than the small businesses who want to set their own hours.

But John Closs, president of the Sudbury and District Labour Council, takes an opposite view.

"Certainly our resources are miniscule compared to what the corporations have," Closs said. "And we would depend on the ability of people to talk to their neighbours."

One thing both men agree on is that there are more important issues facing the city.

They hope the referendum ends the so-called Store Wars once and for all.

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