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Alberta Businesses Tangled in Red Tape

Amber Ruddy

Have you ever waited on hold for government information? Been given conflicting advice on how to comply? Endured silly, redundant or downright confusing instruction? Then you know what it’s like to experience red tape. Unfortunately for business owners, this is an ongoing challenge that tends to increase in complexity year after year.

Having to spend time and money to understand government regulations and deal with red tape impedes small business growth. In fact, about three in five small business owners feel excessive government regulation discourages them from growing their business.

To combat the red tape dilemma of “death by a thousand paper cuts,” the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) hosts an annual Red Tape Awareness Week – dedicated to highlighting the burden, cost and impact of excessive regulations on small business owners.

CFIB has been leading the fight against over-regulation for more than 10 years – and we’re nowhere near finished. The average business owner doesn’t have a human resources or compliance team to navigate red tape – it falls squarely on their shoulders. Progress nationally shows more politicians and decision-makers recognize the problem and are working to solve it. But more work is needed; red tape continues to be one of the top burdens business owners face.

Holding provincial governments accountable for their track record is important, which is why CFIB continues to issue a Red Tape Report Card. In the report, provinces are given a grade which assesses the progress governments make (if any) on political leadership, comprehensive public measurement, and constraints on regulators to put checks and balances in place.

The Alberta government gets a big fat “F” for being a laggard on regulatory reform.

It’s time to show leadership. The premier should make commitments in the budget, throne speech and mandate letters to champion red tape reduction. The Alberta government should appoint a minister responsible for regulatory reform and accountability. A comprehensive public measure should be both credible and cover as many government rules as possible. It should include the total regulatory burden tracked over time. In addition, the measure must be reported publicly at least once a year. Finally, there should be a clear cap on government rules, so the burden doesn’t grow indefinitely.

Reducing excessive regulation has real potential to grow the economy, allowing business owners to focus their resources on serving their customers, innovating, improving productivity and expanding their business.

It’s time to turn awareness into action and get governments to cut red tape to bring back the Alberta Advantage.

Amber Ruddy is the director of provincial affairs for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. She can be reached at amber.ruddy@cfib.ca. Follow her on Twitter @aruddy.