The holiday was proclaimed by Alberta Premier Don Getty, in response to a drug scandal involving his son, Dale Getty, who had been arrested for possession of cocaine and was revealed to have cocaine addiction. Premier Getty was obviously embarrassed by the revelation and admitted publicly that he had neglected his family, saying that it was important for all Albertans to take more care with their families also.
The holiday falls on the same day as Presidents' Day in the United States, and the timing of Family Day is not a coincidence. Alberta is generally regarded as having relatively close personal and cultural ties to the U.S. compared to other Canadian provinces. More importantly, there are close business ties, especially in the petroleum industry. A major reason for the proclamation of this holiday was because many business people felt it to be impractical to be open for business that day while their American suppliers, customers and head offices were closed.
Getty came in for considerable criticism at the time. Many people felt he had abused his position to compensate for his feelings of guilt with respect to his own family. Also, many employers felt that an additional statutory holiday was an unnecessary fiscal burden. In response to the criticism, the August holiday (Heritage Day) was downgraded to a civic holiday, meaning employers no longer have to offer holiday pay that day if they take Family Day off.
Businesses are not legally required to pay holiday pay on Family Day. An employer can explicitly choose to not pay holiday pay on Family Day, in which case it must pay holiday pay on Heritage Day. Thus, businesses with close ties to the U.S. will generally take Family Day off and work on Heritage Day (when American businesses are open), while those businesses with closer ties to other Canadian provinces generally prefer to work on Family Day instead. Provincial government employees have both days off.Family Day in 2006 was celebrated on February 20.