Manitoba

Pallister promises more flexibility in grocery store hours

Manitoba Progressive Conservatives promise they'll allow grocery stores to be open on Sundays and statutory holidays if they are re-elected in September.

Manitoba PC leader says he will repeal act that forces stores to close on holidays

Manitoba PC Leader Brian Pallister calls the law that forces stores to close on statutory holidays outdated and unnecessary. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

The Progressive Conservatives want to end what they say are outdated rules surrounding shopping in Manitoba.

Leader Brian Pallister says a re-elected Progressive Conservative government will repeal the retail businesses holiday closing act, the provincial law that forces retail businesses to close on Sundays after 6 p.m. and on certain general holidays.

"We believe you should have the freedom and the flexibility to choose when you make that decision about your groceries," he said Friday morning at Dakota Family Foods. 

"We inherited Sunday and holiday shopping laws that are outdated and they are unnecessarily complicated and I would say do not align with expectations of the modern Manitoba that we live in."

However, the union that represents thousands of Manitoba retail workers is warning that repealing the act also means getting rid of the right for workers to refuse to work on Sunday.

"The important factor not mentioned yet, is, if the Retail Holiday Business Closing Act is repealed, retail workers also lose the Right to Refuse work on Sundays," said Jeff Traeger, president of UFCW Local 832, in a prepared statement. "This is an important right that allows retail workers to maintain some quality of life and time with their families on weekends."

Food Fare owner Munther Zeid holds a notice of a $10,000 fine Winnipeg police gave him in May for opening one of his stores on Good Friday. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

Complex rules surround the act, which allow businesses such as tourism outlets, restaurants, liquor and cannabis stores, pharmacies and casinos to open on holidays.

Any store that normally operates with four or fewer workers at a time can also remain open. 

Other businesses, including grocers with more than four employees working, can open on some holidays, such as Victoria Day and Louis Riel Day, but not on six holidays, which include Christmas, New Year's Day and Good Friday.

Food Fare owner Munther Zeid received a $10,000 fine when he opened his independent grocery store on Good Friday. He criticized the law that requires stores to close and has said he's retained a lawyer to fight the fine.

He opened his store again on Canada Day and plans to open it on Labour Day, he said Friday.

Municipalities with a bylaw allowing Sunday shopping include Brandon, Portage la Prairie, Thompson and Winnipeg. If the act is repealed, they will be able to further change their bylaws to extend the hours past 6 p.m. and add holiday shopping hours.

"I don't know what changes they are planning to make this easier, but time will tell," Zeid said. "But I am going to continue to be open until it is changed or if it is not changed. I am here for the long fight."

If people don't want the hours to change, they can talk to their reeve or mayor, Pallister said. 

Zeid said if the act is repealed, he hopes he will no longer have to go through with the court challenge

Any change to the law would not impact the requirement to keep stores closed during specific hours on Remembrance Day, Pallister said. 

Manitobans go to the polls on Sept. 10.


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About the Author

Kristin Annable is a member of CBC's investigative unit based in Winnipeg. She can be reached at kristin.annable@cbc.ca

with files from the Canadian Press

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