Originally Published in the June 1991 issue of The Outfitter Magazine.
June 4, 1991, TORONTO - Solicitor General, Mike Farnan announced today that the Retail Business Holidays Act (RBHA) will be amended to provide an exemption mechanism for tourism-dependent businesses and communities. The RBHA requires most retail businesses in Ontario to close on enumerated holidays, including all Sundays.
“Our government remains committed to the concept of a common pause day,” said the Solicitor General. “We also recognize the needs of Ontario communities who depend on tourism to support their economic base.
The tourism exemption will be administered by municipalities in accordance with regulations made under the Act. These regulations will establish province-wide criteria for tourism exemptions that must be complied with before any municipal bylaws can be enacted which grant exemption status.
Criteria for Tourism Exemption
This information is set out in detail in the draft regulation proposed under the amendments. Generally, a geographic area containing the retailer(s) applying for exemption must fall into at least two of the following categories. The area must have:
Historical or natural attractions
Cultural or ethnic attractions
A conservation of hospitality services
Shopping with a unified concept, or theme, such as farmer’s markets, heritage or handcrafted items or other specialized shopping activities catering to visitors;
Access to hiking, boating, camping, fishing or other outdoor recreational activities;
Fairs, festivals, or other special even attractions.
The applicants must also have the support of at least one of the following: a chamber of commerce, a convention and visitor’s bureau or a similar organization serving the area.
A retailer with premises of 7,500 square feet or more/and or eight or more employees serving the public, must satisfy the above requirements and provide services on holidays primarily for visitors.
A retailer must also have at least one of the following characteristics. It must be:
Recognized for historical or distinctive architectural features;
Featuring items of cultural or ethnic appeal;
Providing specialized goods and services such as heritage or handcraft items;
Providing goods and services necessary to tourist activities in the area served by that establishment.
To qualify for exempt status, businesses will be able to apply to their local municipal council. However, a municipality is not obliged to grant exempt status, even if a business or an area meets the provincial tourism criteria.
The council of a municipality is to take into account the principle that holidays should be maintained as common pause days and that exceptions to that principle can be made only if there is compliance with the tourism criteria set out in the regulations.
“This approach will enable local tourism industries to work with their municipalities to capture the tremendous economic and social benefits of tourism,” said Minister of Tourism and Recreation Peter North. “These amendments reflect a renewed understanding of the significant role that tourism plays in Ontario communities.”
The proposed “tourism exemption” amendment replaces the section of the RBHA which granted virtually unrestricted powers to municipalities in 1989.
“The 1989 amendments created the potential for an unworkable situation,” said Mr. Farnan. “Our new proposals ensure consistency and fairness through the mandatory application of province-wide standards.”
Another amendment to the RBHA establishes a minimum fine for breaches of the Act. Accompanying amendments to the Employment Standards Act allow retail workers to refuse Sunday or holiday work, guarantee 36 continuous hours of rest every seven-day period, and strengthen the role of Employment Standards Officers in dealing with employee grievances.
“Thousands of retail workers will have the absolute right to refuse Sunday or holiday work without fear of losing their jobs or facing disciplinary action,” said Minister of Labour Bob Mackenzie. “I believe this is an important step toward improving the quality of life in Ontario.”
(Information reprinted Courtesy of the Ministry of the Solicitor General)
Tourism Ontario Responds
Tourism Ontario is cautiously optimistic that the proposed amendments to the Retail Business Holidays Act (RBHA) will permit many retail business establishments to provide goods and services to Ontarians and visitors to the province on Sundays and holidays.
“Although our industry is, and remains on public record as favouring unrestricted Sunday and holiday shopping as a vital and integral part of tourism, as well as the unrestricted right of Ontarians to work, earn incomes and profit from production and sale of goods and services any day of the week, we are pleased that the Ontario government is prepared, in a positive and substantial way, to recognize the value and importance of tourism in this legislation”, said Ted Zientara, Chairman of Tourism Ontario. “We commend the provincial Minister of Tourism and Recreation, the Honourable Peter North, and his staff, for convincing the provincial Cabinet and the government caucus that the diversity of factors which encourage tourism and travel to and within the province should be reflected in the proposed criteria for tourist area exemptions, and permit substantial retail business activity within these areas on Sundays and holidays.”
We are uncertain, at this time, what administrative problems and obstacles these provincial tourism criteria under an amended RBHA may pose for retail business establishments, or for municipalities that wish to comply with the provincial guidelines and pass enabling tourism area by-laws,” said Zientara.
“However, we are hopeful that many Ontario municipalities will want to work with our industry in recognizing the social and economic benefits which tourism, in all its dimensions, including Sunday and holiday shopping, brings to hundreds of communities throughout Ontario every day of the week and throughout the year.”
(Reprinted Courtesy of Tourism Ontario.)