Ottawa's Finance and Economic Development Committee (FEDCo) has voted unanimously to give Tanger Outlets in Kanata the ability to open its stores on statutory holidays.
The mall's owner, RioCan, has applied for an exemption under the Retail Business Holidays Act.
Eric Topolinsky, regional director of operations at RioCan and former Tanger Outlets general manager told committee there is a large demand from customers for the mall to be open on statutory holidays.
"In our experience, in the last five years, we see a huge demand for the shopping centre to be open on statutory holidays. People will travel in on a holiday that we're closed and we'll actually get complaints on our voicemail, email, on our Facebook, basically at any touch point that we communicate from customers," he said. "People will have driven in from Cornwall, Quebec, Kingston; they'll show up in Ottawa expecting the outlet malls to be open, only to be disappointed that they are not."
Similar exemptions are in place in the ByWard Market, Downtown Rideau, Sparks Street, and the Glebe.
In a report prepared for the meeting, City staff recommended FEDCo approve the request.
"The exemption By-law would provide economic development opportunities for the local retail sector and other potential economic benefits to area hotels, restaurants and attractions," the report said.
The stat holidays that would be affected are New Year's Day, Family Day, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, and Thanksgiving Day. An amendment moved by Coun. Jenna Sudds and carried by the committee replaced Good Friday with Family Day, citing a clerical error.
The only major opposition to the proposal came from Ottawa and District Labour Council President Sean McKenny, who argued against allowing the mall to open its stores on stat holidays, as he did in 2016 when the City voted to let stores in the Glebe open on statutory holidays.
"Perhaps RioCan management needs to be more creative if it wants to attract more people to its stores and not try to do so on the backs of workers employed there," McKenny said in his presentation to the committee.
He questioned a lack of support from businesses in the mall in the staff report, noting that only five businesses had written in support of the application.
"Seventy-seven. That's the number of stores in the mall. Where's the other 72?" He asked.
McKenny also suggested that RioCan wait until after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides to reapply, saying that the tourist destinations to which the Tanger Outlets mall is close, which were cited in the report as evidence that the application meets criteria under the Retail Business Holidays Act, are not in full operation right now.
"There are no hockey games, there's no Cirque du Soleil, there's no Michelle Obama," he said.
Despite protest from the Ottawa and District Labour Council, the motion was passed unanimously and will move to full city council Sept. 9.
Mayor Jim Watson said he was fully supportive of allowing Tanger Outlets to open on stat holidays.
"All of you have been working hard to help businesses in your wards survive COVID," the mayor said. "As Jenna [Sudds] pointed out, we've lost tens of thousands of jobs. If we have an opportunity through a regulatory mechanism that's been given to us by the province to allow a business to open longer hours, particularly on those days that we're talking about, it gives those individuals more opportunity to earn more money and it also gives those companies more opportunities to hire more people."