Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti says that York Regional Council should not push ahead with a plan to allow stores to open on all statutory holidays with the exception of Christmas Day, despite the fact that dozens of business have been granted exemptions to operate on various holidays in the past.

The provincial Retail Holidays Business Act currently prohibits some businesses from operating on nine statutory holidays but under a provision enacted last December, municipalities and regional councils can pass a bylaw which would exempt them from the terms of the act.

One such bylaw proposed by York Regional Council would replace the provincial act with a local bylaw allowing all businesses to choose whether or not to operate on all statutory holidays aside from Christmas Day.

A staff report prepared for York Regional Council suggests that doing so would help “create a level playing field” for businesses but in a press release issued Wednesday, Scarpitti slammed the region for pushing through with the plan without properly consulting the public.

“They are making this decision without any input from the residents, businesses and retail employees,” he said. “I would like to see region-wide public consultations on this.”

York Regional Council has previously granted a total of 31 exemptions to the Retail Holidays Business Act between 1995 and 2016 and the staff report pointed out that as a result there are “retail businesses, business areas and municipalities” that follow different rules, depending on where they are located.

Included in that list, is Markham’s Pacific Mall, which has previously been granted an exemption to operate on all statutory holidays, including Christmas Day.

The staff report suggested that eight of nine municipalities consulted were generally in favour of the proposed changes, which are aimed at giving businesses “the flexibility to choose” when they will be open.

Scarpitti, however, said that statutory holidays are “sacred events” and shouldn’t be pushed aside.

He said that he is proud of members of city council for passing a resolution at their meeting on Tuesday, which condemns the proposed changes.

“It has been a tradition in the province of Ontario to have workers enjoy those days off,” he said. “I think retail workers should be entitled to the same time off that the rest of us enjoy, there are only nine days a year when people can pause and enjoy time with family and friends.”

The proposed changes to the holiday shopping bylaw will go before York Regional Council for final approval on Thursday.

It should be noted that the City of Toronto was previously exempted from the Retail Holidays Business Act but has its own bylaw preventing some stores from opening on nine statutory holidays. There are exemptions for businesses in tourist areas.