The date of Queen Elizabeth’s funeral will be marked in Canada with a national holiday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday.
“We have … chosen to move forward with a federal holiday on Monday [Sept. 19],” Trudeau said in New Brunswick, where he is attending a Liberal caucus retreat.
“We will be working with the provinces and the territories to try and see that we’re aligned on this. There are still a few details to be worked out, but declaring an opportunity for Canadians to mourn on Monday is going to be important.”
Unless the provinces come on board with the plan, only federally regulated workers will get the day off work — similar to the way Remembrance Day is observed. About 85 to 90 per cent of workers are regulated by provincial governments.
Dan Kelly, president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business [CFIB], reacted swiftly to the news by urging provinces to reject the move.
“Given it would allow only six days notice and cost the economy billions, CFIB is urging provincial governments to not declare next Monday as a statutory (paid) holiday,” he said on Twitter. “Provinces should follow the lead of the United Kingdom, rather than the Government of Canada.”
In the United Kingdom, a bank holiday has been announced for the funeral date that will see government services and schools shuttered. Businesses will not be required to close or compensate employees.
Both New Zealand and Australia, however, have declared that they will hold one-time-only national holidays to mark the occasion.
New Zealand announced that it will have its “Queen Elizabeth II Memorial Day” on Sept. 26. Australia said it will hold its one-off national holiday on Sept. 22.
Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said his government has reached out to regional governments and they all agreed that a national holiday is a good idea.
The federal government also has announced that Parliament will return in Ottawa for a one-day sitting on Sept. 15 to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II and will come back full-time on Sept. 20, instead of the scheduled Sept. 19.
Costing out a statutory holiday
Speaking to CBC News on Monday, Kelly said the cost of a holiday would be an unfair burden on businesses.
“Businesses are already struggling to pay their employees and to find enough employees to keep their businesses going. For those that can close, they would obviously lose a day’s productivity,” he said.
“For those that need to be open, like a restaurant or a movie theatre or something like that, all this means is that employees would receive extra pay while they’re working, pay that employers would be struggling to find.”
Kelly said that while a public holiday would cost the economy billions of dollars, small- and medium-sized businesses would escape that pain if the provinces decide to let the federal government act alone, since most federally regulated business are large enterprises.
Bank of Montreal chief economist Douglas Porter said that the cost to the economy of an extra statutory holiday comes in at between 0.1 and 0.2 per cent of annual GDP, or somewhere between $2 billion and $4 billion. He added that figure is only an estimate.
“Presumably not all activity would be shut down. Some could be made up at a later date and some activity occurs on weekends,” Porter told CBC News in an email.
Porter said that while the cost might seem high, he does not think cost should be a significant factor in the government’s decision. The Monarchist League of Canada said it agrees.
Marking a rare event
“We obviously would love to see the government have a national holiday on the 19th,” league spokesperson Robert Finch told CBC News on Monday.
“I think it would be a huge sign of respect. I think it would give people the opportunity to watch the funeral and reflect in their own way and to have a day off in order to do that.”
Finch said that while he is sympathetic to Kelly’s arguments, the cost should not be the deciding factor.
“I think they’re very genuine concerns, absolutely. They have to be factored into the decision. But I also like to think that this is not an every-year occurrence, this is a one-off,” he said.
If the provinces do not back the move and the vast majority of Canadians do have to go to work on Sept. 19, said Finch, it might not be all bad news for monarchists.
“The flip-side of the coin is that if it’s not a holiday, and if students are in school, there is an opportunity to learn about it, where you may not necessarily have that if it is a holiday,” he said.
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