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Finally, some red tape news to get excited about

By Ryan Mallough

Published in the Toronto Sun of January 26, 2019.

I confess: Red tape is not the most exciting topic.

It can be difficult to explain, it doesn’t always come with flashy price tags, and while one-off examples may make you shake your head or roll your eyes, it’s hard to visualize the scope of hundreds of thousands of rules and requirements.

Whether it’s pages and pages of forms, restrictive access to online services, or duplicative licensing requirements, red tape adds up quickly and causes big problems for small businesses.

The red tape climate in Ontario is so bad that 56% of business owners told us they would not advise their children to be entrepreneurs because of the regulatory burden.

But in the last six months, we’ve experienced something new: When you walk around Queen’s Park, there’s a buzz in the air about red tape, and during CFIB’s 10th annual Red Tape Awareness WeekTM, it’s something worth getting excited about.

This week, we awarded the Ontario government an A- in our Red Tape Report Card, the highest grade the province has ever achieved.

The report card is based on three key questions. Is the government showing leadership on the file? Is the government counting the number of regulations and updating that count? And, has the government placed a hard cap on the number of rules in the system?

The strength of political will and leadership the Ontario government is showing on red tape reduction is almost unparalleled. It’s not only Premier Ford, or Economic Development Minister Todd Smith championing the drive. It’s not even limited to Cabinet. Since the new government took power, we have received several calls from business owners across the province letting us know that even their local MPPs are reaching out for red tape headaches.

What we’re experiencing is a cross-government effort to meaningfully reduce the red tape burden, with a scale and scope that proves “making Ontario open for business” is more than just a slogan.

In the fall fiscal update, the government set a clear 25 per cent reduction target, to be met by the end of the mandate. Not only is the target achievable, it also sets the table perfectly for Ontario to join British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba, and the federal government as the only jurisdictions in the world to introduce one-for-one legislation – something we encourage the government to do after they hit their 25 per cent mark.

For years, CFIB worked with the previous government to determine the number of regulations in the system. After all, it’s hard to tell if you’re losing any weight if you don’t step on the scale. The previous government did a good job of identifying specific red tape irritants and putting a time and cost impact on their fixes, but struggled with an updated count of what was coming in and what was going out.

The current government is using the 380,000 regulatory requirements benchmark, set by the previous government in 2012. We’re encouraged the government is using a measure of any kind – though it’s likely that the regulatory count has grown significantly in the last seven years. An update could go a long way towards turning that A- into a full A.

Ontario’s government has come a long way in only six months. If they stay on track, hit their 25 per cent target and update the count, Ontario will be open for business for years to come. That’s something everyone can get excited about.

— Mallough is CFIB director of provincial affairs for Ontario.

January 26, 2019

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