Retailers in the Glebe might still be closed on statutory holidays, even though city council voted 16-7 Wednesday to grant the neighbourhood BIA an exemption allowing its stores to open on six of those holidays.
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Sean McKenny, president of the Ottawa & District Labour Council.
Shortly after council’s decision, the Ottawa & District Labour Council announced it will appeal the exemption from the Retail Business Holiday Act to the Ontario Municipal Board.
“We don’t think it adheres to the criteria for a whole bunch of different reasons,” ODLC president Sean McKenny said.
Mr. McKenny said he believes the intent of the act was to exempt retailers in designated tourist areas that focus on a specific building or attraction, not “a waterway that stretches 200 kilometres,” an obvious reference to the Rideau Canal. He said it’s also unlikely that people touring the Museum of Nature would then walk over to the shops in the Glebe.
Then there’s the question of how to define a tourist. Mr. McKenny said there’s a lot of confusion among some people about what constitutes a tourist, but not him.
“The intent clearly, without a doubt, was more along the traditional definition of (someone travelling at least) 100 kilometres or a night’s lodging or accommodation, but not somebody from Vanier coming into the Glebe,” he said.
Mr. McKenny said he believes retail workers should be given a “common day of pause” on statutory holidays. While workers do have the right to decline a statutory holiday shift, he worries they might suffer repercussions from their employers for doing so.
Mr. McKenny said he thinks the majority of the smaller Glebe retailers don’t support the exemption, despite what Capital Coun. David Chernushenko told OBJ after the finance and economic development committee approved the exemption on Feb. 2.
“Do I think it has more to do with Whole Foods and OSEG? (With) Bernie Ashe being at FEDCO last week and making his presentation, I think the message was pretty clear there,” he said.
Mr. McKenny stressed this is not a “business versus labour or labour versus business” issue, but rather a community issue.
“This is about ensuring that everybody is able to enjoy quality of life,” he said.
Mr. McKenny said he knows it’s the business community that drives job creation in the community.
“I get that. But this piece, it just doesn’t make sense no matter how I look at it,” he said.
Mr. McKenny said it was “kind of cool” to see seven councillors – Stephen Blais, Riley Brockington, Rick Chiarelli, Diane Deans, Keith Egli, Jeff Leiper and Catherine McKenney – vote against the exemption, although he wished more had joined them.
“Clearly, they are hearing. I’m hoping some of the workers are feeling empowered enough or strong enough to call their councillor,” he said.
The ODLC has thirty days to submit its appeal. Mr. McKenny said he couldn’t say how long the appeal process would take.