Changes to Holiday Shopping Regulations

October 31, 2012

Under the City of Toronto, Municipal Code Chapter 510, Holiday Shopping, retail stores are required to be closed on the following nine public holidays: New Year's Day, Family Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

The (Ontario) Retail Business Holidays Act (RBHA), which governs jurisdictions outside the City of Toronto, has similar requirements. Both the City's Municipal Code and Provincial Statue provide numerous exemptions by type and size of store, as well as exemptions for designated areas within a municipality. Some Councils have exempted their entire municipality from the requirements of the RBHA. It should be noted that subject to proclamation, the RBHA is slated to be amended. These amendments will bring the retail shopping provisions applicable to other areas of the province more in line with the provisions currently applicable to the City of Toronto.

Toronto City Council considered the topic of holiday shopping in 2006, 2008, and 2010. In the consultations for all of these reviews, there has been a consensus that the existing regime of regulations, exemptions and exceptions creates an unlevel and often confusing playing field. The purpose of this review is to develop a fair and equitable solution. Under the guidance of the Economic Development Subcommittee on Holiday Shopping, this review incorporates the most comprehensive consultation of holiday shopping conducted by the City of Toronto to date. A report from the Subcommittee on Holiday Shopping has also been submitted to this meeting of the Economic Development Committee.

Consultations took place through stakeholder meetings, telephone poll, online survey, email submission, and public meetings between November 2011 and July 2012. The consultations provided a forum for a frank and respectful exchange of views among all stakeholders, many with strongly held views. Although there was no consensus among the stakeholders, the consultations were successful in soliciting input and produced a better understanding and appreciation of the range of perspectives on this topic. Through the consultations, staff heard from all the stakeholders identified by City Council including Business Improvement Areas (BIA's), community groups, members of Council, the Workers Action Centre, legal clinics and others who represent employees.

Staff also conducted an extensive review of holiday shopping regulations in other jurisdictions. This is the first time information on holiday shopping in southern Ontario has been compiled. There are 81 municipalities in southern Ontario that permit holiday shopping. More than 60% of municipalities in southern Ontario with a holiday shopping exemption apply the exemption to the entire city, and at least 90% of retail business establishments are open on following four days: Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day and Thanksgiving Day. The number of municipalities that permit shopping on public  holidays is increasing.

This report takes into consideration the views held by all stakeholders on this topic and recommends amendments to the existing by-law in order to establish a more fair and equitable solution. The recommendation would require retailers to remain closed on five of the public holidays: New Year's Day, Family Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Christmas Day, and give retail operators the choice to open on the remaining four holidays: Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day and Thanksgiving Day between the hours of 10:00 AM and 6:00 PM.