Where there’s a will there’s a way, but a lack of will to reduce red tape in B.C. has businesses losing their way in a forest of regulations.
The annual review of regulations in jurisdictions across Canada by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, released Jan. 31, has awarded Alberta top marks for its will to reduce red tape and the way it’s carved out a path for entrepreneurs to do business.
The province scored 9.4 out of 10, receiving an A grade for making reductions in the regulatory burden as well as accountability a priority.
Saskatchewan and B.C., where reducing red tape is a low priority – the two provinces are the least attentive in Canada when it comes to reducing red tape – received grades in the B range. B.C. scored 8.3, receiving a B+ grade, while Saskatchewan scored 7.5, receiving B-.
“British Columbia shows little evidence that red tape reduction and regulatory modernization are clear priorities. The current B.C. government has not included red tape reduction in the mandate letter for the corresponding minister,” CFIB reported, even though it does have an internal red tape team/task force in charge of identifying and addressing regulatory irritants.
B.C. was also singled out last year for its lack of political will, underscoring the challenges in changing the culture of government.
“The BC government has a strong red tape reduction framework and processes that have been in place since 2004 and other governments have replicated,” said Annie Dormuth, B.C. provincial affairs director with CFIB. “B.C. is falling behind in political leadership where we are not seeing red tape reduction as a priority from the cabinet table. The government can turn this grade around by re-setting red tape reduction goals and ensuring there is a minister or parliamentary secretary owning this important file.”
Saskatchewan doesn’t post its mandate letters, nor has it set red tape reduction as a priority in official government pronouncements.
Yet both provinces score well in other areas.
Saskatchewan has measures in place to ensure accountability and also earned top marks for its Red Tape Reduction Committee, which reviews all business-related regulations at least once every 10 years.
“This process, which is the only one of its kind in Canada, helps ensure regulations remain relevant and removes red tape,” CFIB noted. “In 2022-23, the RTRC reviewed 2,480 compliance requirements.”
This resulted in net savings of $4 million, CFIB said.
The province says its red tape reduction efforts aim to save businesses $10-20 million annually. Since 2014, its Red Tape Reduction Committee claims to have saved businesses $688 million in fees and taxes.
B.C., for its part, has held the line on new regulations through a Net Zero Increase commitment that has held the line at the baseline count of 197,242 regulations, down for 330,182 in 2001. The current commitment expires this year.
Alberta’s political will stems from the fact that it is among the provinces with the most to gain from reducing red tape.
An initial baseline count in 2020 identified 666,513 regulatory requirements. The province pledged to reduce regulations by 33 per cent in 2022-23, and is well on its way to doing so.
Manitoba was not graded this year due to the October election of Wab Kinew as premier and the transition to a new government.
However, between 2016 and March 31, 2023, it reduced regulatory requirements from 939,827 to 833,074.