Column: Ottawa should forget Remembrance Day bylaw

By Michelle Doblanko

Canadian soldiers fought and died in battle to

preserve freedom. It’s ironic the City of Ottawa now wants to honour our fallen soldiers by limiting local business owners’ freedom.

This year the City of Ottawa wants to approve a bylaw that would require most businesses to remain closed until 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 11, or risk being slapped with a fine. Only stores that sell perishable goods or necessities, like food, would be exempt from the policy.

The former City of Ottawa had a similar bylaw in place since 1967, but many of its former municipalities, such as Kanata and Gloucester, have let storeowners decide for themselves how to commemorate the day.

I am not belittling the importance of the holiday, but it is essential that businesses are able to choose whether to stay open or not.

If the City of Ottawa isn’t willing to help merchants stay afloat they shouldn’t get a say over whether it’s business as usual on Nov. 11.

Some local businesses take a moment of silence, others lay wreaths to mark the occasion and some storeowners feel the day is too sacred to be open at all. Remembrance Day has never been a mandatory holiday in Ontario, even though the federal government and the majority of provinces classify Nov. 11 as a statutory holiday — they require businesses to close or operate under some mandatory holiday rules, such as reduced operating hours.

If the province has decided not to make Remembrance Day a statutory holiday, it is not right that a city can make a different decision that will impact how businesses are run.

The reason some provinces opted not to make certain holidays mandatory is because of the financial implications it can have on business, says Len Westerberge, spokesperson for the ministry of Canadian Heritage.

“There are tremendous costs associated with statutory holidays. Sure it is nice to have a day off, but there is employee statutory pay, business productivity, and shutdown costs that businesses have to incur,” he says.

To many people, it may not seem like a big deal for stores to stay closed a few hours longer, but when the majority of Ontario businesses are open, it can put local merchants at a huge disadvantage. It is the storeowners, not the city, who are faced with the loss of income. For businesses already struggling to make ends meet, this loss of revenue can be disastrous.

We are told that the sacrifices made during the wars were to ensure that society has the chance at a better life. Business owners join with the rest of Canadians in honouring these brave men and women. But, like the rest of society, they want to exercise their freedom and choose how to mark the day and ensure a prosperous future for tomorrow.