Brian Pallister says a re-elected Progressive Conservative government would repeal legislation restricting Sunday and holiday shopping.
At a news conference Friday at Dakota Family Foods on St. Mary's Road, the Progressive Conservative leader said the province would leave it to municipalities to regulate retail hours.
Manitoba is the last western province to restrict shopping on both Sundays and statutory holidays, he said. "We believe you should have the freedom and flexibility to choose when you (buy) your groceries."
The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce and the Retail Council of Canada have long called for retailers to have the flexibility to set their own hours based on consumer demand.
Local independent grocers, such as Dakota Family Foods and Food Fare, have openly challenged the law preventing them from opening on certain statutory holidays.
Pallister said if re-elected, his government would repeal the Retail Holiday Business Closing Act to level the field for retailers. Under the current rules, government liquor stores and cannabis stores can be open on some days that food stores cannot.
Pallister said restrictions on retail hours on Remembrance Day would remain. Businesses would still be required to close between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on that day.
John Graham, a spokesman for the Retail Council of Canada, was on hand for Friday's announcement, and applauded it.
"Across Canada, outside of (Prince Edward Island), we have the most restrictive, most complex Sunday and holiday hours." — John Graham, a spokesman for the Retail Council of Canada
"Across Canada, outside of (Prince Edward Island), we have the most restrictive, most complex Sunday and holiday hours," he said.
Scott Clement, owner of Dakota Family Foods, said current Manitoba laws are outdated.
"I'm excited about it. It's long overdue," he said of the PC promise.
However, Kevin Rebeck, president of the Manitoba Federation of Labour, said he was disappointed the party would make such a promise just a few weeks after government officials invited a labour-management committee to study the issue of Sunday and holiday shopping and make recommendations.
"Getting rid of the act completely eliminates the work-life balance for retail workers," he said. "It's an extreme move. And I don't know why they wouldn't want business and labour to problem-solve and talk through issues and give some good advice."
Meanwhile, the provincial NDP said it would also change legislation to make shopping hours more flexible on Sundays and holidays, though leader Wab Kinew said he would ensure workers' rights are protected while doing so.
"With Mr. Pallister involved, my concern would be that they're just going to change it without any other moves to address the needs of working people, that those folks will have less days off in a given year," Kinew said.
— with files from Jessica Botelho-Urbanski
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.
Updated on Friday, August 23, 2019 at 2:41 PM CDT: fixes typo in headline
3:32 PM: Updates photo