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Schools, Crown Corps. to close as Horgan declares Sept. 19 a holiday to mourn the queen

Businesses scramble to set their own paths, Ontario and Quebec not recognizing federal holiday
Tourists stand outside of Westminster Place in London, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022. Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest reigning monarch, will lay in state at Westminster Palace from Wednesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Markus Schreiber

Provinces and businesses were left scrambling to react Tuesday after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that next Monday will be a federal holiday to mourn Queen Elizabeth II.

While the announcement signalled that federal workers would get a day off on Sept. 19, the day of the Queen’s state funeral and of commemorative events across the country, provinces had to work out the details for other workplaces, including schools, with less than a week’s notice.

Federally regulated sectors such as banks and airlines were also left to their own devices, with federal Labour Minister Seamus O’Regan saying they “are welcomed to follow suit, but they are not required to do so.”

In the hours that followed Trudeau’s announcement, B.C.’s Premier John Horgan announced that the province would be following suit, with most Crown corporations, and schools – including post-secondary – to be closed on Monday.

“Over the last few days, British Columbians have joined with people across the country and around the world in an outpouring of support for the Royal Family over the loss of Queen Elizabeth II. Our government will follow the lead of the federal government and join with other provinces in observing the national day of mourning to mark the Queen’s funeral.”

Horgan went on to encourage private-sector employers to “find a way to recognize or reflect on the day in a way that is appropriate for their employees.”

The government of Prince Edward Island said it would declare a one-time statutory holiday for all provincially regulated workers, and that provincial government offices and public schools would be closed.

A statement said the province “recognizes that many essential services and some employers will need to continue to operate as scheduled,” and that such businesses would follow provisions for employees who work statutory holidays.

Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador also said they would observe the national day of mourning by closing schools and government offices, but all three provinces said the holiday was optional for private-sector employers.

Ontario and Quebec are not recognizing the holiday.

The Ontario government said in a statement that residents can choose to observe a moment of silence at 1 p.m. that day.

Quebec Premier François Legault was asked about the possibility on the campaign trail in Montreal on Tuesday. He told reporters that it would be a day of commemoration, but not a public holiday.

Saskatchewan had not made a decision by midday Tuesday, according to Premier Scott Moe’s office. A spokesperson for Moe said they had been advised late Monday that a federal holiday was under active consideration, and that talks are still ongoing.

Ahead of the flurry of provincial decisions, Trudeau had said that he would be working with provinces and territories to ensure they’re “aligned.”

“Declaring an opportunity for Canadians to mourn on Monday is going to be important,” Trudeau said at a caucus retreat in New Brunswick on Tuesday.

Organizations representing businesses were urging governments not to recognize the day of mourning as a paid holiday.

Michelle Wasylyshen, the national spokeswoman for the Retail Council of Canada, said many businesses are still struggling to get their operations back to pre-pandemic levels.

“It is our hope and expectation that retail closures will not be mandated by the various provincial governments, as doing so would present a significant cost and short-notice challenge to employers,” she said.

The six-day notice makes a formal statutory holiday “deeply unfair for small businesses,” said Dan Kelly, the president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, adding it could also “cost the economy billions.”

“For many small businesses, such as restaurants, hotels and movie theatres, this would mean paying more in order to stay open. Small businesses are already struggling with labour shortages and requiring them to close or pay time-and-a-half to their employees with no notice would be extremely costly or result in a day’s lost productivity.”

Both organizations say provinces should instead follow the United Kingdom’s lead. In the U.K., Monday is being recognized as a national bank holiday, meaning most workers are not automatically entitled to time off.

This would make it more similar to Remembrance Day or the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, which are paid days off for federal workers and federally regulated industries, but which not all provinces have recognized as statutory holiday.

Commemoration ceremonies for the Queen’s funeral will also be held in Canada, including a parade, a flypast and a church service in Ottawa that will be televised nationally.

Trudeau said he and the opposition leaders’ offices are working on a final list for the delegation that will attend the funeral in London.

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