Remembrance Day a statutory holiday? Attempt to make it so clears hurdle
By an overwhelming majority, MPs have again said they want Nov. 11 to become a statutory holiday right across Canada.
Bill C-597, which would make Remembrance Day a statutory holiday, passed second reading in the House of Commons on Wednesday by a margin of 258 to 2.
The bill was the brainchild of New Democrat MP Dan Harris, who says he’s confident it will eventually become law.
"On the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War and given recent tragic events, I think there's some momentum in that direction," he said.
Although Harris clearly has his fellow MPs on board – as well as lawmakers in the six provinces and three territories where Remembrance Day is already a statutory holiday – not everybody agrees with him.
Harry Watts, a Second World War veteran who lives in Kitchener, says he’s concerned a universal day off would lead to Canadians treating Nov. 11 like any other statutory holiday – possibly heading to the shopping mall rather than the cenotaph.
“(For) the kids, it’s another day off to sit and play video games,” he tells CTV News.
Instead, Watts says he’d rather see an effort to bring the country together for a short period of time every Remembrance Day.
“I think the whole country should take two minutes – just a pittance of time – and everything stops,” he says.
“Instead of taking the whole day off … just two minutes to shut down the assembly line. Two minutes to stop the buses. Everything shuts down in the country for two minutes, and everybody pays their respects.”
As for worries an extra day off could negatively impact Canada’s economy, Wilfrid Laurier University economics professor Christine Neill says any such concerns are overblown.
She says the extra holiday would mean a loss of, at most, 0.3 per cent of GDP in the provinces where the day isn’t already a regulated holiday.
That figure assumes no commerce takes place on Remembrance Day itself, and no additional transactions are conducted in the days before or after to make up for the holiday.
“It’s made up in very short order,” she says.
Bill C-597 will go before the House of Commons heritage committee before returning to the House for a final vote.
However, even being enshrined as a federal holiday wouldn’t make Remembrance Day an automatic day off.
Ontario and the other provinces not currently recognizing it – Quebec, Nova Scotia and Manitoba – would still have to change their individual labour codes.
With files from The Canadian Press