Canadians should stop paying attention to self-service newspaper polls on Sunday shopping. Ask questions such as “Would you like to work on Sundays while others go the cottage or the beach?”, and the results would be spectacularly against open Sundays.
The polls, and those who support them, are appealing to the worst aspects of consumerism. Instead of being guided by a comprehensive view of the needs of the worker as a human being—including his spiritual and mental needs—consumerism appeals to the baser instincts and self interests of the general consumer to help override permanently his rights and needs in order to satisfy a few short-term benefits.
Sunday shopping will destroy much and accomplish little. It will not halt cross-border shopping which has to be settled—if it has to be settled at all by other means such as lower Canadian dollar, border taxes and fees for shopping via the mail. It will not put the balance sheets at Sears Canada and the Bay in the black despite their outrages claims that it will. Their own financial statements show 40 years of annual profits without Sunday trade. Finally, it will not being greater prosperity. A dollar spent over seven days won’t stretch any further than one spent over six.
What Sunday shopping will do, however, is bring higher prices. Salaries, heat, electricity and insurance will have to be covered. When Alberta adopted it under pressure from the Government brothers of the West Edmonton Mall in 1983, prices rose 15 percent. To-day the world’s biggest Mall is one fifth empty and the Ghemezians are busy elsewhere.
It will also mean clogged roads seven days a week instead of six. Delivery trucks, moving vans, milk and gasoline trucks, and service vehicles of all types will be on the road as on any other day, together with the workers. Its environmental effect on large cities will be more smog and more pollution, this time without a break of even one day a week.
Instead of bringing prosperity, the effect of Sunday shopping will be increased misery, especially for families. Small businessmen without replacement staff will be forced to remain open seven days a week. Employees of the large chains will be compelled to work on penalty of being fired. Legislation cannot protect them because an employer or supervisor has many ways of making life miserable for an “unwilling” employee.
Children will need more day care,; many families will not have sufficient time together; single parents will be under even greater stress than before. And many full-time employees will be replaced by part-time workers for whom the employer will not have to pay social benefits and who can be hired or fired at will.
The dignity of workers requires the Sunday break. Canadians have both the right and the need to worship God, and they need a free Sunday for their spiritual as well as their mental health,
It took 120 years—from the 1830s till the 1930s –before the Western world as a whole allowed fair wages, Sundays off and a shorter work week. Often the battle took place against bitter opposition. We must not allow greed to triumph against and take away those hard gained freedoms alienating people from society and one another through false and superficial gratifications.