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CFIB announces finalists for Canada’s worst red-tape stories

Winner of the annual ‘Paperweight Award’ to be announced January 20th

Toronto, January 14, 2016 – In the lead-up to Red Tape Awareness Week™ (January 18-22), the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has announced the finalists for its Paperweight Award, which is given annually to government agencies and departments that are holding back small businesses with misguided rules, hard-to-follow processes and bad customer service.

This year’s examples largely represent ‘specific irritants’ that are costing small businesses both time and money. “These smaller red tape problems should be the easiest for governments to fix,” said Satinder Chera, vice president at CFIB. “We’re often asked by politicians for specific examples of red tape they can deal with. Now we’ll see if they walk their talk.”

Nominations were received from across the country and across all levels of government. The winner of the 2016 Paperweight Award will be announced on Wednesday, January 20th.

The finalists are:

Finalist Red tape headache


Manitoba Ministry of Finance

Manitoba's "associated companies" rule forces companies with the same owner(s) to combine their payrolls to determine whether they need to pay additional tax. The government does not provide business owners who sell a company mid-year (and no longer apply under the rule) an avenue to report the change until the following tax season, leaving them stuck with the higher tax rates, for up to a full year.

Stewardship Ontario

Small manufacturers and importers in Ontario have to report on product packaging and printed paper. Some are exempt, but have no way of knowing until they fill out a long, poorly designed online form. Instead of stating the exemptions up front, the form simply stops working, and instructs users to call the agency for clarification.

Halifax Regional Municipality

New ‘patio’ regulations forced two restaurants to pay more than a thousand dollars to change the layout of their patios, which had already been approved by the City.

Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

Contractors were forced to wait eight months for a building permit to construct a wharf in Lunenburg County thanks to confusion between the regional DNR office in Lunenburg and the head office in Halifax. The wait-time far exceeded the 45-day turnaround advertised on the department’s website and forced the company to lay off its employees.

Revenu Québec

Construction companies and employment agencies must obtain Revenu Québec certification to show clients they have paid their taxes. The client then has to take that same certification back to Revenu Québec – the very same agency that issued the certification in the first place – and have them verify that the certification is legitimate.

Saskatchewan Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety

If an employee wants to observe a public holiday on a different day, the employer needs to apply for a special permit from the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety. In other provinces, the employee and manager can simply agree to swap days.

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)

The CBSA dropped the small business section from their website without warning, leaving small businesses without access to government trade-related information tailored to small importers. While saying it’s only temporary, no timeline has been given by the CBSA for restoring the information.

Port Metro Vancouver (Fraser Valley Port Authority)

The port authority implemented new rules, which essentially exclude businesses with fewer than five trucks from accessing the port. Along with enormous fee increases, these changes have disqualified 600 trucks from working at the port. All of which was done without proper consultation.

Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Service Canada

Lack of communication between these federal departments forced a Temporary Foreign Worker in Nova Scotia out of her job with a small business, and nearly resulted in her deportation.

Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)

In BC, a temporary foreign worker (TFW) looking to enter the trucking sector needs a work permit to get a driver’s licence. But, to get a work permit from the CBSA, the TFW requires – you guessed it – a driver’s license from the ICBC.


Government red tape is a hidden tax that affects Canada’s small businesses much more than larger firms. The annual cost of all regulations on businesses in Canada is pegged at $37 billion per year, with one-third of that ($11 billion) considered red tape.

For further information please contact Ryan Mallough at 416-222-8022 or [email protected].  

CFIB is Canada’s largest association of small- and medium-sized businesses with 109,000 members across every sector and region.

January 14, 2016

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