Nova Scotia

Province tightens rules on holiday store openings

The Nova Scotia government hopes to finally slam the door on holiday shopping by imposing $50,000 fines on retailers who disobey.

The Nova Scotia government hopes to finally slam the door on holiday shopping by imposing $50,000 fines on retailers who disobey.

A bill proposed by the third-party Liberals has been amended to give the minister of labour sweeping powers toensure stores close at least eight days a year.

If the law doesn't spell it out clearly enough, the minister will have the power to come up with new rules to shut down any store he feels should be closed on a holiday.

Labour Minister Mark Parent expects that raising the current maximum fine of $1,500 will also keep retailers in line.

"Someone could theoretically open and say, 'I'll pay the fine, it's still worth opening.' We've upped them to $50,000 or the gross sales, whichever is higher," said Parent.

Under the plan, all a labour inspector needs to fine a store is an advertisement saying that retailer plans to open on one of the eight holidays, including Boxing Day and New Year's Day.

The minister of labour would also have the power to designate more holidays.

"So in a multicultural faceted society as ours, we can move in that direction if we so desire," Parent said.

Large retailers have been allowed to open seven days a week since last fall, when the province changed its Sunday shopping law after losing a court challenge by two grocery chains.

Premier Rodney MacDonald said Tuesday the goal is to give as many Nova Scotians as possible time off to spend with their families.

The proposed rules close the loopholes that allowed so many retailers to defy the old ban on Sunday shopping and ensure only stores under 4,000 square feet open on holidays.

"Anything that was not open previous to the last number of years will not be open in the future all those days, MacDonald said, citing Wal-Mart as an example.

A small drugstore would be allowed to open on holidays, he added.

The plan is to have the new rules in force as early as the end of the week to give retail workers at least three days off this holiday season.