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Toronto, January 25, 2017 – Sidewalks to nowhere, rogue lemonade stands, and a war on sandwich spreads. If it seems ridiculous it must be the heavy hand of government rolling out another spool of red tape, restraining us all in a tangled mess of short-sighted regulations. Today, in one of the more popular items on the Red Tape Awareness WeekTM 2017 agenda, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) released this year’s list of outrageous regulatory headaches for small businesses and most deserving of the ‘Paperweight Award’.
Example 1: A Winnipeg bookstore/café was caught in the crossfire of a “one size fits all” application of a sewer by-law regarding grease traps on sinks and dishwashers. Although many shops were granted exemptions, this bookstore was denied one simply because they put mayo on their sandwiches. Facing $12,500 in fines, they were forced to close down for four months.
“This is the kind of thing that exasperates small business owners,” said Laura Jones, Executive Vice-President. “Not the regulations designed to protect Canadians, but the type of bureaucratic rules and processes that place undue cost on businesses without serving any purpose whatsoever.”
Example 2: A local business owner in Smithers, BC, applies for a permit to renovate a commercial building he owns. He’s told he must build a 30 metre sidewalk across the street, connecting nothing to nowhere. His offer to give the city the equivalent in cash so it could be put to better use is promptly rejected.
“Small business owners often feel like the government does not respect their time,” added Jones, “Whether it’s complying with stupid rules, or simply filling out a myriad of forms and surveys, or even waiting on hold for some sort of clarity on confusing regulations, the government wastes entrepreneurs’ time that would be better spent with customers, making sales, or planning for the future.”
Example 3: Two girls aged 5 and 7 set up shop on a popular bike path in Ottawa selling ice cold lemonade on a hot summer day. They are quickly shut down by the National Capital Commission, citing lack of proper permits. It’s a sour lesson in red tape for a couple of young entrepreneurs just trying to sweeten everyone’s day.
“Red tape is the farthest thing from common sense,” said Jones, “It’s a hindrance to youthful exuberance and creative innovation, and it’s a hidden tax that restrains our economy. The stories we are sharing today are only a small fraction of the headaches small businesses face every day.”
Government red tape is indeed a hidden tax, affecting Canada’s small businesses much more than larger firms. Between Jan 23-27, CFIB presents the 8th edition of Red Tape Awareness Week to look at which governments are making progress and which are lagging when it comes to cutting through unnecessary rules and paperwork for entrepreneurs. The annual cost of all regulations on businesses in Canada is pegged at $37 billion per year, with one-third ($11 billion) considered red tape, according to a 2015 CFIB report.
CFIB is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 109,000 members across every sector and region.