Businesses throughout the country made it clear they simply couldn’t afford another statutory holiday, even if it was a one-time only occasion, to mark the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. Such a reaction wasn’t necessarily intended to be a slight on Her Majesty, but rather a recognition that closing shop or paying higher wages weren’t options they were willing to entertain at this time.
Although the prime minister declared Monday a federal holiday, most provinces, including Alberta, didn’t follow suit with a statutory holiday declaration because of the negative impact such a move would have on business and the economy as a whole. Most jurisdictions came to the conclusion that it was simply not practical to give everyone a paid day off given everything that’s been thrown at the economy in recent times.
Apparently, the Town of Okotoks didn’t get that memo because it decided last week to provide staff members, or at least ones in certain departments, with the day off on Monday. They were given that time, according to the Town, “to share in the celebration of the Queen’s passing in their own individual way."
Given the time difference, it wasn’t as if Town employees required time off from work in order to watch the funeral service from England, which was on TV here in the wee hours of the morning. The Town could also have easily shut down operations for an hour while staff members attended a service the Okotoks Legion held in honour of the Queen’s passing at the local cenotaph on Monday morning, but judging from the turnout for that event, even those with the whole day off didn’t see the need to attend.
A day off with pay is a nice perk for staff, but civic leaders must understand that it also sends a message to the rest of us, particularly the business community, that financial considerations aren’t paramount and that conducting the public’s business can wait another day.