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Hudson's Bay seeks court review of 'unfair' retail shutdowns in Toronto, Peel

Last Updated Dec 10, 2020 at 8:35 pm EDT

Hudson’s Bay has applied for a judicial review of the current provincial regulations that have shut down non-essential retail stores in Toronto and Peel Region.

In a statement the company argues that health data shows “retail shoppers are not contributing to COVID-19 spread in any significant way.”

“On behalf of thousands of large and small retailers in Toronto and Peel, we have been left with no choice but to ask the Court to recognize the unfairness of the current situation and the need for a fair and evidence-based solution that puts health and safety first and doesn’t jeopardize the livelihoods of thousands of retail workers, or the future of many businesses.”

Ford’s office referred a request for comment about the matter to Nicko Vavassis, a spokesperson for attorney general Doug Downey.

Vavassis confirmed the province had been served with a notice linked to the judicial review and is reviewing it, but said it would be “inapproapriate” to comment because the matter is before a court.

Hudson’s Bay was among dozens of other retailers both big and small that sent the province an open letter last week, calling for stores to reopen with a 25 per cent capacity limit.

The group argued that the shutdown has funnelled shoppers into adjacent communities, creating a greater health risk and giving an unfair advantage to big box stores that remain open.

RELATED: Retailers ask Ontario government to lift COVID restrictions

“The Government’s approach is unreasonable and unfair, does not support our shared public health objectives and is causing undue stress and hardships to thousands of retail employees and businesses across the region,” Hudson’s Bay said Thursday.

Hudson’s Bay initially kept its Queen Street location in downtown Toronto open when the lockdown measures came into effect in Toronto and Peel Region on Nov. 23, saying they considered it an essential service because it “offers grocery.”

The Ford government objected saying: “The inclusion of discount and big box retailers selling groceries is intended to include retail with a full grocery store component. This would include Walmart and Costco for example, but not The Bay or IKEA.”

Hudson’s Bay closed the Queen Street location the next day.

December is by far the company’s most significant month because it typically brings in between 15 and 20 per cent of the company’s annual sales at the 12 stores in the affected areas.

During the first lockdown between March and May those stores saw a decline of up to 90 per cent in sales, when compared to the same period in 2019.

HBC employs 3,277 people at these stores, but it has already had to temporarily lay off 915, or 28 per cent of its full-time staff as a result of the new lockdown.

The company said, “Of all months to impose a full lockdown, this is by far the most crippling for HBC.”

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report

RELATED: Hudson’s Bay will keep Queen Street location closed during lockdown