Government of Canada takes Triple Crown for most absurd regulations

CFIB’s 2024 Paper Weight Awards for the worst examples of red tape go to the CBSA, Health Canada, and Finance Canada 

 Toronto, January 30, 2024 – The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) wins the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)’s 2024 Paper Weight Award for its burdensome and unfair decision that’s resulted in new, hefty import duty fees for a small costume business. 

 The Costume Shoppe in Calgary is facing potential closure and at least $100,000 in import duty fees because the CBSA changed the classification on his imported themed costumes from “festive wear” to “fancy dress.” 

“Two word changes have created a regulatory and costly nightmare for this small business,” said CFIB director Julie Kwiecinski. “The change essentially means that a Santa suit or scary ghost mask are considered the same as regular clothing people wear every day. I think it’s pretty clear to everyone but the CBSA that themed costumes are not intended for continuous wear, day in and day out.”  

The shop’s owner, who has over 2,500 costumes in stock, must refile previous inventory, even if those goods are no longer being imported, and he can’t appeal the CBSA’s decision unless he pays first. 

“Sadly, it’s all trick and no treat for The Costume Shoppe. The livelihood of this and other small businesses is at risk, yet there’s precedence for big businesses being exempted from these duties. Doesn’t the CBSA have bigger fish to fry than enforcing a silly, unreasonable rule?” Kwiecinski added. 

The two other Paper Weight Award finalists this year include Health Canada and Finance Canada. 

Health Canada takes second place in the red tape race for its plans to introduce a new cost recovery process for the natural health products (NHP) industry with paperwork challenges and excessive fees to get a product into the Canadian market. In addition, NHP businesses will soon have to navigate a standardized Product Facts Table and various other new, technical labelling requirements (e.g., a minimum type size, font types, and contrast), on top of existing labelling rules. 

Finance Canada takes third spot for making payroll services subject to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA). This change means more paperwork for small businesses using payroll services and duplicates existing anti-money laundering controls used by banks. This regulatory burden, especially the requirement for some physical documentation, is discouraging small businesses from adopting digital payroll solutions. 

“If the CBSA, Health Canada and Finance Canada had first considered how their new rules would impact small businesses, we wouldn’t be in this regulatory mess. We’re asking these government organizations to do the right thing and fix the fallout by applying our clear and simple solutions,” Kwiecinski concluded. 

The Government of Canada joins previous Paper Weight Award “honourees” including: Service Canada’s passport mess (2023); the City of Toronto’s business licence process (2020); the federal government’s web of confusion and near impossible to understand language on its websites (2019); and Smithers’ infamous “sidewalk to nowhere” in British Columbia (2018).

To learn more about CFIB’s Red Tape Awareness Week™ and Paper Weight Awards, visit

For media inquiries or interviews, please contact:
Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, CFIB

About CFIB
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small- and medium-sized businesses with 97,000 members across every industry and region. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings. Learn more at