On Blue Governments and Blue Laws

Seven days ago we had a provincial election; the resulting government was unchanged in label (still Progressive Conservative by minority), but with a slightly weaker minority than previously. The party has a new leader, so it's good that the new leader didn't cause the total collapse of the government. The positive news from this blogger's point of view is that the New Democratic Party (for the uninitiated, this is the party in the Big 3 that have the strongest platforms for the environment, education, health, and long term care for seniors. Unfortunately they are rarely the party in power.) gained five seats, taking two from the Liberals and three from the PCs. The NDP has been running a not-so-close second to the Tories (PC) for some time, with the Liberals coming in a weak third for the past 15 years or so.

This means a few things: there will be very few substantial changes in policy direction, but the NDP's presence and growing strength means good things for the lefties out there: more environmental protection being written into policy being a biggie for me.

On that topic, and even though you didn't ask... here's a little history lesson (which benefits me, too, since I wasn't here for most of what you're about to read):

The FIRST government:
Nova Scotia general election, 1867
NameSeatsPop Vote
Liberals / Anti-Confederates 3658.6%
Conservatives / Pro Confederation 238.5%
Heh. Anti-confederates. Yee-haw. Those crazy Liberals.
Then the more familiar "two main parties" scheme:
Nova Scotia general election, 1871
NameSeatsPop Vote
Nova Scotia Liberal Party2452.2%
Nova Scotia Conservative Party 1443.7%
Three-quarters of a century later:
Nova Scotia general election, 1949
NameSeatsPop Vote
Nova Scotia Liberal Party2751.0%
Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party839.2%
Nova Scotia CCF Party 29.6%
...and the PC's took over:
Nova Scotia general election, 1956
NameSeatsPop Vote
Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party2448.6%
Nova Scotia Liberal Party1848.2%
Nova Scotia CCF Party 13.0%
...and hung on to a majority until 1970:
Nova Scotia general election, 1970
NameSeatsPop Vote
Nova Scotia Liberal Party2346.1%
Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party2146.9%
Nova Scotia New Democratic Party 26.7%
The Liberal reign lasted for 8 years, until:
Nova Scotia general election, 1978
NameSeatsPop Vote
Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party3145.8%
Nova Scotia Liberal Party1739.4%
Nova Scotia New Democratic Party 414.4%
By 1993, the NDP had really started to grow:
Nova Scotia general election, 1993
NameSeatsPop Vote
Nova Scotia Liberal Party4049.4%
Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party932.0%
Nova Scotia New Democratic Party 317.7%
And the Liberals slowly lost ground, giving up Party in Power status from 1999 until today.
Nova Scotia general election, 2006
NameSeatsPop Vote
Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party2339.66%
Nova Scotia New Democratic Party 2034.51%
Nova Scotia Liberal Party923.48%

And because I know you love the charts, here's a little something I worked up to show the swings in power:

One of the other issues which I mentioned recently is the Sunday Shopping Debate : The PC party was challenged a number of years ago to change the rules which ban shopping (other than gas stations, convenience stores, small fruit markets, and drugstores). Predictably, they said "No. We know what Nova Scotians want, and they don't want Sunday Shopping." This went on for far too long, and they finally held a plebiscite, the results of which supported the PC agenda (51% to 49% -- you tell me if this is a convincing result.) The last election saw party platforms introducing Sunday Shopping and retail gas pricing regulation as planks, but in this last election there was little mention of it -- actually, reducing some of the consumption taxes got higher priority, but we'll just see if any taxes in the province are ever lowered.

A major issue with the grocery chains and their inability (or illegality, whichever you like) to open up shop on Sunday is a small but nontrivial competitor: a "Froot" market which basically is a grocery store, but conveniently subdivided with signage indicating that you're now in the deli, the bakery, the fruit section -- all with colourful, creative and usually pun-ny names. There is some suggestion that there are different stores operating under one roof, except that you pay for it all at one convenient cash register.

Sound familiar? Hmm...sounds kind of like a regular grocery store, doesn't it?

So this "Froot" market has two locations in the city, both open on Sundays, just tempting Big Grocery to get creative with opening up on the Day of Rest. Other stores have done it, indicating that these are "private shopping parties" (and handing out invitations at the door), or just being cheeky and paying the $5,000 fine for breaking the Sunday Shopping law, as a major hardware store named after this country has done in the past. If I can get my camera phone to cooperate, I'll be posting a picture below of the "signage" which apparnetly gets one store around the "Blue Laws":

It's a little fuzzy, but it says, "S______'s Fruit Stand". There also were signs indicating their "Fresh Seafood Stand", and their "Bakery" or somesuch. Crafty.

It seems the straw has finally broken the camel's back: Of the two largest manifestations of Big Grocery, one decided to do some creative modifications to their store and open up last Sunday. There was (apparently) a line up to get in, an hour before the store opened. And the praise and the backlash have started to bubble up through the media. Some people ( i.e. those with kids and jobs outside the home who never have enough time on Saturday to get everything done) were happy to have the opportunity to do some shopping, even if they had to drive a little to find an open outlet (one chain opened only 6 stores in the province), while others cried that it forced people to work and took away the "mandatory day of rest", even though it's clearly not a day of rest for everyone. (I'm tempted to post a proposed letter to the editor by my friend T, but I'll wait to see if it materializes in the paper first. It's all fair game after that, right?)

When I went to the store to support the Sunday shopping experience, it was before noon, so the church crowd was still in their respective churches. There wasn't much of a line, and I was in and out within about 20 minutes, including a long stop to buy apples (the Toddler loves the apple-buying). I have since learned that it was difficult to even find a place to park after noon (that would be the god squad filling up those parking spots on their day of rest, if I haven't been clear enough so far.) Huh. Curious.

And here's a comment from a newspaper article I can personally relate to, and one which I think is particularly relevant to the retail sector (the key sector excluded in the Sunday Shopping issue):

"It's some more hours for me," the 18-year-old said. "They didn't force me at all."

It was the same for me, growing up in Sunday Shopping-land; It's not hard to figure out that a high-school kid with a car is your BEST sunday shift worker. Give me all the bloody Sunday shifts you've got.

As far as I know, the Sunday shopping will continue. The government under its newest leadership regime will not challenge any "legal" openings on Sunday, so I suppose things will just continue on with the ssame few stores being open every Sunday. Doesn't sound too bad to me. I wonder what will happen with the malls...

Posted bythemikestand at 8:57 AM  

5 stepped up to the mike:

Big Daddy said... 5:55 PM, June 20, 2006  

Wow that's strict. I think I remember you mentioning it before.

Here in Colorado our only remaining 'blue laws' are liquor stores and auto-dealerships can't be open on Sundays.

Tanya said... 9:03 AM, June 22, 2006  

If you read the letters to the editor in yesterday's chronicle, you will read of some employees feeling they ARE being forced to work on Sunday. They are offered the shift, they turn it down...suddenly they're not offered as many hours during the week as some kind of "penalty". This would be a valid reason for voters who checked "no to sunday shopping"...voters who have family member(s) in the retail business who aren't "a high school kid with a car". However, if they keep up their end of the bargain and NOT penalize those who dont wish to work sundays then I say Shop Away...I think I might need a few things myself...a "no to sunday shopping" voter (hypocrite)

Ramzi said... 1:42 PM, June 23, 2006  

Sunday shopping is a slippery slope. There are still lots of places to get food under the current set-up, and not all of them are over-priced gourmet Froot markets.

Where was I? I had a rant... oh yeah, slippery slopes.

I present to you a random person. Let's call him, Joe. Let's suppose Joe owns a small retail store with about 4 or 5 employees. The market of Joe's store is competitve and he has to be open when his comptetitors are open to stay in business. Let's say for years and years, Joe and his competitors are not allowed to open on Sunday. Joe likes Sunday. He gets to eat garlic and stay up late on Saturday night, then sleep in on Sunday and spend the afternoon in the park with his kids.

Then one day it all changes. Joe has to open his store on Sunday to stay competitive. All his employees liked having Sunday off and now they have to work at least most Sundays because Joe and his employees all keep the store going.

Now Joe doesn't get to see his family. He doesn't get days off. He's always tired.

I know a Joe. He doesn't live on NS, obviously, but Sunday shopping in Ontario (how long ago was that???) changed his life. Now he doesn't have time for family.

themikestand said... 2:01 PM, June 23, 2006  

First off, if Ramzi's commenting, it must be important (or about Scotch)...

I'm fully aware of the implications of Sunday openings on small businesses. I respect that some of them might not wish to open, but would feel forced to do so. However, what's so sacred about Sundays? And who says stores have to be open from sunup to sundown?

And, as the other popular "pro" argument goes, where do you draw the line? Restaurant owners face the same issue. Same with pubs (you can drink and watch the game on a big screen TV in a bar, but not shop for food in a supermarket on Sundays; there's a lesson for you.)

Many unfortunate situations will only be unfortunate for a while, and then work themselves out. Closing on a Sunday is (in my opinion) unlikely to scare away loyal clientele. People who are willing to work on Sundays will be hired on in many cases. I don't think that because 53% of the provincial voters in the last plebiscite voted against relaxing the rules for Sunday shopping, that over half of the businesses will be negatively affected by a rule-change.

I feel for your friend Joe, Ramzi. I do. But does the government have to mandate such things in order for him to get some quality family time in? (Hmm, sounds a little bit like the "against" argument: "surely you can do your shopping some OTHER time during the week!")


ramzi said... 12:36 PM, June 25, 2006  

Wow. Respectfully...

Anyway, I don't have a super strong opinion on this. I like the debate but don't care all that much. Of course, as you say, there is nothing special about Sunday because we have a separation of Chuch and state, er...province. But if all shops had to be closed on Wednesday, then what would be different? Personally I enjoy not shopping on Sundays. It gives me time to catch up on leaving pointless commentary on the web. But that's not a good reason for me to impose that upon you.

I've had conversations about this with my mom around the plebiscite (in which I did not participate). She was a single mother of two until I was 16. When SS (c'mon, it needs an acronymn) came to be in Ontario, her feeling was that while was convenient, it took away leisure time.

I say we need to become more European. Work 35 hour weeks, get 6 weeks vacation per year. I think most of Europe is open on Sunday too...Everybody wins!

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