Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sunday shopping for votes

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Eight months ago, Premier Greg Selinger said the NDP had no plans to change the province's Sunday shopping laws. The premier said he believed the existing law struck the right balance between access to shopping and providing opportunities for families to spend time together.

Today, however, everything has changed, or has it?

Finance Minister Stan Struthers said the government will "loosen the restrictions on Sunday shopping" in recognition of the fact families have hectic schedules and because Manitoba stores "face pressure from cross-border shopping and competitors online."

It sounds good until the next sentence when the minister then promises extensive consultations "to ensure that more Sunday shopping does not mean less quality time together for working families."

It's a position typical of a government that prefers to suck and blow at the same time in order to avoid offending anyone. The abrupt turnaround on Sunday shopping -- if that's what it truly is -- may also serve as a distraction from more serious issues facing the province.

The government does not need to consult with business, labour and the public before eliminating the prohibitions on Sunday shopping. The positions of all three groups are well-established, and they were well-known eight months ago when Mr. Selinger drew a line in the sand against expanded Sunday shopping.

Shoppers want greater flexibility, while labour unions oppose any change in the status quo.

Manitoba has among the most restrictive Sunday shopping laws in Canada and it's time they were eliminated so retailers can serve their customers in whatever way they believe will meet their needs.

Unions claim their members want to spend time with their families on Sundays, but that was the same argument used when the province allowed limited shopping on Sundays nearly 20 years ago.

It has become clear over the past two decades there is a vast market for Sunday shopping, which should be allowed to operate freely and openly without gratuitous regulation by the state.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 19, 2012 A14

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