TORONTO — A lawyer for Hudson’s Bay Co. says Ontario regulations forcing some retailers to close while others with similar merchandise remain open are “irrational and arbitrary.”
The province’s regulations make no “rational distinction” between department stores and some of the big box and discount retailers which are allowed to remain open, Jonathan Lisus told a video hearing with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Thursday.
He said there are hundreds of chain retail stores open for business that look “just like HBC” with the sole distinction that they sell an unspecified, undefined amount of “so-called” groceries.
Lisus noted, for example, that Walmart and Costco sell very similar products to HBC, while the majority of goods at discount retailer Dollarama are non-essential with its food offerings consisting mostly of candies, sweets and some canned goods _ not fresh groceries.
“HBC is not here to take issue with the important objective of pushing back the pandemic or to point fingers at other retailers,” he said.
“It’s here to say the distinction that has been drawn is irrational and unfair.”
HBC has asked the court to review the province’s decision to temporarily close non-essential retailers in Toronto, Peel region and more recently the regions of York and Windsor-Essex.
Hudson’s Bay has 16 stores closed in the affected regions.
“Hudson’s Bay is the only entity that has the industry classification of department store general merchandiser ? that is excluded by this regulation,” Lisus said.
“This really is a unique-to-HBC issue.”
Still, the department store has banded together with smaller retailers to object the regulations.
A coalition of about 50 retailers, including HBC, even went so far as to sign a letter to Premier Doug Ford that argued the policy pushes more consumers to big-box and discount stores.
Lawyers for the Ontario government are expected to provide a response later today.