|P.E.I. and Nova Scotia were the last two Canadian provinces to prohibit widespread Sunday shopping. P.E.I.’s pharmacies, corner stores and similar small operations have long been permitted to open on Sundays, but large retailers were restricted to the last four weeks before Christmas. Nova Scotia’s beleaguered government abandoned the battle this fall after a court permitted large retailers to open on Sundays.
The P.E.I. government has now brought forward legislation permitting retail stores to open at noon on Sundays from the Victoria Day weekend until Christmas; they may stay open until midnight. Those employed before the new act comes into force have the right to refuse to work on Sunday, without penalty.
John Gaudet, speaking for the Charlottetown Chamber of Commerce, calls it “an equitable compromise position.” Jim Larkin of the Charlottetown Area Development Corporation’s Board, describes it as “a progressive step to help grow the retail sector.”
Dr. Sean Hennessy, of the University of Prince Edward Island’s School of Business, says studies show Sunday shopping increases total retail sales, partly because people substitute shopping for alternative leisure activities. Many consider that an undesirable development. Money that might have gone into local theatre groups or restaurants will now go to grocery and department stores.
Other expressed concerns include undue pressure on people who work in retail; putting small corner stores in direct competition with big box stores; loss of the distinctive low-key Island way of life; ignoring the fact that there are spiritual needs as well as physical; and “a downgrading and confusing of the work-rest cycles that will add strain to an already-stressed society.”