Hopes of red tape relief in Alberta dashed

There was the handmade paper company that was classified as a pulp and paper mill by Workers’ Compensation Board.

There was the handmade paper company that was classified as a pulp and paper mill by Workers’ Compensation Board.

There was the construction company that was written up for using the wrong font in its safety manual.

Or, how about the cabinetmaker who was fined for remitting a tax filing one day late after more than 30 years of on-time payments.

These are the types of red tape horror stories the Canadian Federation of Independent Business hears everyday from frustrated business owners across the country.

The issue is not with essential regulations that protect workers, the environment, or public safety. It’s about red tape: rules that don’t make sense, rules that are inconsistent, poor government service, and so on.

That’s why earlier this month CFIB heralded the country’s first ever Red Tape Awareness Week. A number of initiatives took place to raise awareness about the burden of excessive government red tape on small business.

Many politicians even took the opportunity to announce new and creative red tape relief plans. For example, the Saskatchewan government hailed CFIB’s Red Tape Awareness Week and released an update on their reduction efforts. The opposition party in Manitoba announced that they will be pushing a private members bill to deal with this issue permanently. The opposition party in Ontario even created a website to gather red tape horror stories from Ontarians. The federal government, having just completed a major red tape relief project, confirmed that their commitment will continue.

Sadly, once again, Alberta came up short. Not only did the provincial government not announce any solutions, they won’t even identify it as a significant issue.

According to a new study from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Alberta is a laggard on meaningful red tape relief. In fact, while the cost of regulation in most Canadian provinces has gone down, in Alberta, the price tag is up. The cost to Alberta businesses of regulation from all levels of government is now $4 billion each year, up from $3.5 billion in 2005. And the cost falls disproportionately on the smallest of businesses.

Small business owners think a 10 to 25 per cent reduction is possible without sacrificing the public interest goals of regulation.

It’s time that Alberta gets in the game. They have a perfect opportunity with the upcoming provincial budget. Let’s hope we won’t be disappointed again.

Janine Carmichael is the senior policy analyst for western Canada with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. She can be reached at janine.carmichael@cfib.ca.