Sunday shopping and the early-20th century values of Nova Scotia
Hello again, gentle readers. I'm back from three fascinating weeks spent in Ireland and Italy, which has provided me with ample fodder for posts on language policy, "authenticity" in tourism, and football. But I'm still a little jet-lagged, and will ramp up to full blogging speed with a CBC story I saw on my flight back to Canada yesterday.
Living in Sackville, New Brunswick puts me dead centre in the Maritimes. We do most of our grocery shopping in neighbouring Amherst, Nova Scotia which is a 10 minute drive away, just across the border (where the kind people at Atlantic superstore actually stock fresh herbs, unlike the local store, where even parsley is unavailable). The bridge to PEI is less than a half-hour drive away. This makes political events in the other provinces of keen interest to us. Hence my interest in Nova Scotia's archaic Sunday shopping law. Nova Scotia is the sole hold-out of the provinces to ban Sunday shopping, a decision recently re-affirmed by a close plebiscite vote in October 2004.
It's one of those cases where rural-urban values splits come into play. Urban areas, especially Halifax, want to be able to shop on Sundays. Rural areas are more opposed to this, and want legislation to force their views on the others. And so a blatantly Christian religion-based law is still enforced in the province. The governing Conservatives, with a reduced minority government, are still defending the law. The opposition NDP wants the issue referred by the government to the courts for a ruling on its constitutionality, rather than forcing Atlantic SuperStore, which is challenging the law, to bear the costs.
Here's another idea. Why don't the NDP and Liberals cobble together a bill to rescind the law, and show that they have the courage of their convictions? The no-Sunday shopping law is archaic, and should be rescinded. Hiding behind the Charter and the courts is a rather pathetic substitute for decisive political action. The 2004 referendum only bound the government not to act during the last mandate - and we're into a fresh one. It's time to pull the province kicking and screaming into the 21st century (or even the late 20th). If stores don't want to open on Sunday (or Monday, or Saturday) for religious or personal reasons, that should be their prerogative, but it should not be the result of government coercion. Recommend this Post