Casual commentary about political, cultural and economic issues with a particular interest on the city of Winnipeg by John Dobbin
Sunday, August 5, 2012
New Sunday Shopping Rules
Today marks the first day of the new shopping rules. The only party to campaign on opening up the law for local governments in Manitoba to decide was the provincial Liberals. The NDP and the Progressive Conservatives wouldn't touch the issue with a barge poll so as not to offend their base supporters in the unions and traditionalists and the religious respectively.
This is the problem of do nothing government and political parties beholden to their major funders. Neither the NDP or Progressive Conservatives wanted to act on this issue. None of them acted on behalf of the consumer.
So why did the law change? Well, it seems obvious that Manitoba having the toughest Sunday shopping laws in North America was not starting to damage the economy in the province. Also, with a bad news budget, the NDP were hoping to do add something that would be appealing to consumers in the province. The unions acted shocked and angry as to be expected.
The NDP have always done things half heartedly on the issue. It seems to stoke huge controversy with right and left incredibly angry about in 1987. What we ended up with at the time was the most miserable of laws that restricted large stores to four employees. However, once the law was enacted, people found it was convenient and useful.
The restrictions the NDP thought needed to be put in place were totally unworkable. They allowed Safeway to be open but with only four employees. It was an out and out catastrophe. Osborne Village Safeway was overrun and employees couldn't handle it. They got in trouble just for hiring a security guard for their packed parking lot as that was counted as more than four people.
The NDP government of the day acted helpless to to do anything about the mess they created. Obviously, the law was changed in later years if for no other reason than it was unworkable.
And so Manitoba had the same old law from Noon to 6 with only minor changes over the years.
No nothing government until the province is the last one left behind. The two big parties not speaking on behalf of consumers.
However, is it all abut the consumer? No. This is a vital economic issue. The NDP has had ample evidence over many years on the impact of Sunday shopping. The British study back in 2006 showed the increases in economic activity and impacts on various elements.
Robert Warren said the incremental changes were needed and the NDP acted smartly. As brilliant as the man is, he can be wrong as noted by his belief that Ikea would never come to Winnipeg. He had solid evidence the big retailer's past actions made them an unlikely candidate for the city but ultimately he was wrong. Ikea had such solid sales in the province catalogue-wise and were missing sales left and and right due to not being able to ship certain products. It didn't take long for the company to consider the possibilities of what a store would be like and they didn't just put a tentative toe in. The store is a giant.
With respect to Mr. Warren, his thoughts that the malls need to be kept in check with some restrictions belies the fact that where no restrictions are in place, retailers often limit their own hours anyway. No doubt he has the same economic impact studies as I have seen but Manitoba is a special case? I can't agree.
The changes to the act allowing for 9 to 6 shopping will be appreciated by those who are standing in lone line ups at noon to pick up items at the store. I have been in those lines. Not fun. I have worked Saturdays for much of my life. I can't always get some grocery items other times. Sometimes Sunday was a good day for the family to get together to do household shopping since more people were likely to have the time off.
A Free Press column on Sunday shopping ended up stating that some Sunday shopping amounts to a personal failure somehow. A tenuous link to Sunday shopping and debt is made. I guess you can make that link if you want. I guess you can make the link between Sunday restaurants and obesity too. Or Sunday football and divorce. Or Sunday newspapers and depression.
I think the reproval of some people on Sunday shopping will not change. Nor will do nothing government beholden to special interests to change the law only when the damage is evident to looking at the stream of traffic heading south or shopping online.
The NDP government has a problem in this province with an exodus of shoppers. Their timid response is insufficient. Some stores like Menard's are the busiest in the U.S. in part because of their actions. The pick-ups at the border because of their inaction grow and grow.
Who speaks for the consumers of this province? Why are we at the back of the pack always and forever? The people saying moving slowly is good on this issue don't seem to realize the house is on fire.