Re­tail leg­is­la­tion al­ready ob­so­lete

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL -

Across much of Canada, Box­ing Day is the busiest shop­ping ex­trav­a­ganza of the year. Af­ter a day and a half of vis­it­ing friends and fam­ily, and din­ing on tur­key, Cana­di­ans are ready to bust out. They are look­ing for those post-hol­i­day bar­gains and Box­ing Day blowout sales, use those gift cards found un­der the tree or make ex­changes on sweaters a size too big or too small. Line­ups are com­mon hours be­fore stores open.

Any­one watch­ing Satur­day news­casts saw shop­pers clog­ging stores in On­tario and Que­bec. Ev­ery­one seemed to be do­ing his or her part to boost the econ­omy as part of an an­nual postChrist­mas rit­ual. Ex­cept on P.E.I. Here, re­tail stores were closed Satur­day and had to re­main closed un­til noon Sun­day or face a $10,000 fine. Since most busi­nesses closed early Christ­mas Eve, stores were shut down for the equiv­a­lent of three full shop­ping days at the busiest time of the year for re­tail­ers.

Many peo­ple vis­it­ing P.E.I. for the hol­i­days left for home Satur­day or Sun­day and never got a chance to drop some money with our re­tail op­er­a­tors. It was un­for­tu­nate tim­ing that Sun­day fell the day af­ter Box­ing Day this year and only fur­ther il­lus­trates the ab­sur­dity of P.E.I.’s Re­tail Busi­ness Hol­i­days Act.

Leg­is­la­tion says that on P.E.I., Sun­day shop­ping is per­mit­ted af­ter 12 p.m. year round but stores must re­main closed on des­ig­nated re­tail hol­i­days. P.E.I. stores must ad­ver­tise Box­ing Week sales be­cause Box­ing Day sales are a mis­nomer. Just to get to this epochal point in P.E.I. hol­i­day shop­ping history took years of de­bate and a ra­zor-thin vote in the leg­is­la­ture. The law is al­ready ob­so­lete and need changes be­cause it’s al­ready 2016.

It should be up to busi­nesses when they open and let the mar­ket­place de­cide hours of op­er­a­tion. There are al­ready nu­mer­ous ex­cep­tions to the leg­is­la­tion be­cause gas sta­tions, phar­ma­cies, smaller stores and restau­rants can open when­ever they want. Large busi­nesses and large em­ploy­ers are be­ing pe­nal­ized. If the de­mand is there, stores will open to sup­ply that de­mand. It shouldn’t be up to gov­ern­ment to reg­u­late the mar­ket­place or de­cide when and how re­tail oper­a­tions make money or stay afloat.

There is also the grow­ing threat from on­line shop­ping – al­ready making deep in­roads in the re­tail sec­tor. That phe­nom­e­non will ac­cel­er­ate be­cause of our an­ti­quated leg­is­la­tion. Re­strict­ing our lo­cal re­tail­ers’ abil­ity to op­er­ate threat­ens jobs and taxes.

It’s time for gov­ern­ment to butt out.

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