How Sunday laws kept Halifax cruise tourists from spending

In 1983, cruise ship passengers stopping in Halifax had nowhere to spend their money.

Cruise lines reconfigured plans to prevent passengers being stuck with nowhere to buy anything

Sunday shopping laws keep Halifax cruise passengers from opening wallets

38 years ago
Halifax's Sunday shopping laws mean cruise ship passengers have nowhere to spend their money. 1:44

Ships in Halifax harbour were nothing new. But in 1983, cruise ships were.

It was around that time that some of the big cruise lines in the waters around North America started planning itineraries that included Halifax.

Lighthouses and lobster... 

The local tourist board was thrilled they were bringing travellers to Nova Scotia to spend a few hours taking in the sights of Peggy's Cove, enjoying a lobster dinner, and shopping on the waterfront.

"A lot of them are flabbergasted." said a Nova Scotia tourism official about visitors' reaction to not being able to shop on Sundays. (CBC Archives/1st Edition)

But there was a problem: Sunday. Local merchants were missing out on chances to make money due to Sunday shopping laws. Like many other provinces, Nova Scotia enforced laws that called for Sunday to be a day of rest, not commerce.

"A lot of them are flabbergasted, because these people are travelled people... they just can't believe that our stores wouldn't be open on Sundays," said a local tourism official.

The Veracruz, a ship docked on Sept. 14, 1983, was scheduled to visit Halifax eight times between June and September — never on a Sunday.

...but not much more 

"Sunday is a day of worship and rest, and we should observe that," said one Halifax resident. (CBC Archives/1st Edition)

Another cruise line, Royal Viking, had stopped Halifax visits altogether because passengers had nothing to do there on Sundays.

"If the shops are closed, it's not as attractive to come in on Sundays as it does during the week," said another official.

Even then, said reporter Bette Cahill, the Halifax Board of Trade was split on the issue. Some members wanted to lobby for Sunday store opening, but others didn't. It made it impossible for the board to take a stand either way.   

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now