Reducing red tape is a top political priority in Alberta, giving effect to the good intentions other provinces voice but fail to follow through on.
In its annual review of red tape in Canada released this week, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business gave Alberta a top mark score of 8.8 out of 10 for red tape reduction, with top marks going to the province’s prioritization of the issue. The province scored 9.5 for its prioritization of reducing red tape, ahead of Manitoba (7.5) and Saskatchewan and B.C. (both 7.0).
“While B.C. outperforms most provinces in terms of regulatory accountability and reducing the overall regulatory burden, the province earned a ‘C’ grade for political prioritization of red tape and regulatory modernization, which suggests more work needs to be done to ensure BC’s top policymakers are championing red tape reduction,” CFIB said in a press release announcing the report.
The lack of political interest in making red tape reduction a priority undermines an otherwise strong framework when it comes to red tape.
B.C., for example, ranked on par with Alberta at 8.9 in terms of regulatory accountability, while Manitoba scored 8.8 and Saskatchewan checked in at 8.0.
B.C. also leads the country in terms of the regulatory burden at 8.8, well ahead of Alberta (8.4), Manitoba (8.3) and Saskatchewan (7.9).
But this is primarily due to the measures in place to lighten the burden, not necessarily because it has fewer regulatory restrictions.
CFIB records 73,535 regulations in B.C.’s laws and the regulations giving them force and effect, the highest in Western Canada and the third most in Canada after Ontario (144,677) and Quebec (127,263).
Manitoba, by contrast, has the least in Western Canada at 57,606.
Despite the number of restrictions, the burden is relatively light on a per capita basis, at just 137. This is second only to Ontario, which has just 95 regulations per capita.
B.C.’s efforts started in 2001 with the province’s launch of a bureaucracy-fighting site that allowed public reporting of red tape, wastebuster.gov.bc.ca, followed by a rule requiring the elimination of a regulation for every one introduced.
“Their red tape reduction efforts are over two decades old [and] what they’ve done that other jurisdictions have been unable to do is stick with it,” said Laura Jones, the Vancouver-based executive vice-president and chief strategic officer with CFIB, of what took place in B.C. “The structure that they put in place on accountability and measurement has continued to deliver some good benefits.”
Unfortunately, provinces like Alberta and Manitoba have overtaken it when it comes to keeping the momentum going.
“The premier’s not out there talking about the importance of regulatory accountability, regulatory modernization, red tape reduction,” Jones said. “It’s the political will where they fall down a bit. If it weren’t for that they’d be the undisputed leaders in Canada.”
In terms of specific recommendations, housing and development are key areas where society at large could see significant benefits from less red tape.
“Just about everyone in the construction sector complains about how long it takes to get approvals,” Jones said. “Surely those timelines can be shortened without sacrificing the important goals. That’s not going to be the magic thing that suddenly makes all housing affordable to all citizens, but it’s going to move us in the right direction.”