By Steven Sukkau
The province may be opening a can of worms with its announcement that extended Sunday shopping hours will be opened up for consultation.
There are currently no bylaws preventing Sunday shopping in Winkler, however Mayor Martin Harder wondered if local politicians were to address the issue, they would face criticism regardless of the decision.
"Our community would definitely be divided on the issue," Harder said. "I wish the province would deal with their own decisions rather than pitting community against community. We all need a day of rest."
Winkler Chamber of Commerce president Kenton Doerksen said they are always open to discussing issues in the local business community, though Sunday shopping has not been a priority.
Doerksen said Sunday shopping comes down to a question of community values versus the potential sales that are not being made because retailers are closed. For the most part, he said, being closed Sunday does not automatically translate into lost sales. as people would make their purchases on one of the six days stores are open.
"One of the community values that has made Winkler a strong, vibrant community is the emphasis place on family time," Doerksen said. "Given how important this value is to families in the area, major retailers have not attempted to push the issue.
"I realize that being closed on Sundays may have originated from the Christian heritage of many of us. However I think that this is a critical issue, not only because of faith but because of the impact on our families."
Doerksen said family time is important and that it should be one of a community's priorities.
He said it's also important that family members have the same day off.
"I see a huge benefit in kids having the same days off as Mom and Dad. What is the benefit in a parent having a Tuesday off (instead of Sunday) when the kids are in school? How does that help to strengthen family?"
"Either way, if we decide to move to Sunday shopping down the road let's ensure that it's a decision made considering all factors, not purely the bottom line."
While Doerksen can understand some businesses' interest in being open seven days a week, he hopes the business community will stick with the status quo for many years to come.
"That said, the Chamber is a representative of the business community and as such if we are approached by businesses to investigate the issue further we will do so."
Extended shopping hours were announced as part of last Tuesday's provincial budget, but it won't happen before extensive consultations, Family Services and Labour Minister Jennifer Howard announced Friday.
"We want to consider the options for making Sunday shopping less restrictive but at the same time respect the importance of having time to be with family," Howard said. "Other provinces have made changes to their legislation and now Manitoba's Sunday shopping rules are more restrictive than most other parts of the country."
The current law requires retail stores remain closed on Sunday and certain holidays, unless a municipal bylaw is passed to allow it - and then only from noon to 6 p.m.
Businesses and labour representatives on the Labour Management Review Committee (LMRC) have been tasked with submitting recommendations to the province.
They'll consider whether Manitoba, like other provinces, should guarantee retail employees two consecutive days off. They'll also look at whether the existing right to refuse work on Sundays - if not hired to do so - would need to be extended under longer shopping hours.
But municipalities will have the final say.
Shopping restrictions on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Labour Day, Canada Day, Remembrance Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day will remain the same.
The province is accepting feedback online at www.manitoba.ca/labour/standards until May 9.