Nova Scotia says shopping ban protects workers

Retail lawyer calls province's position on Sunday shopping 'cynical'

In their concluding arguments in a case against Nova Scotia's Sunday shopping ban, lawyers for two grocery chains accused the province's cabinet of creating a web of absurd regulations in an attempt to block large grocery stores from opening on Sundays.

Nova Scotia is the only province that still bans retail outlets from opening on Sundays. The act has changed over the past 20 years and now mainly applies retail stores bigger than 4,000 square feet. When large retailers like Sobeys and Loblaws began subdividing their businesses into smaller units to skirt the size restrictions, the province introduced new regulations to prevent any store that wasn't subdivided before June 1 to take advantage of the loophole.

John Keith, lawyer for mega chain Loblaws, wants the Nova Scotia Supreme Court to quash these new regulations. Keith said the cabinet didn't have the authority to introduce such a restriction without legislative approval.

The province's lawyer, Alex Cameron, argued during the two-day hearing last week that the 1985 law was created to protect workers who didn't want to work on Sundays.

However, Keith said that argument was "a bit cynical." He said the government didn't include the word 'employee' in the act and it has always shifted the issue of employee rights into the Labour Standards Code.

There are currently 11 Sobeys and six Atlantic Superstores (owned by Loblaws) open on Sundays. Police have already indicated they won't charge the stores because there isn't a strong chance of winning the case.

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