By Laura Jones, Vancouver Sun Columnist
Published March 7, 2016
Last week I renewed my driver's licence. Based on past experience, I was expecting a long wait and service with a scowl. With my six year old in tow, I braced for the worst but was surprised when the service was faster than expected and the person behind the counter was friendly and provided helpful information about my Care Card now being part of my new driver's licence. I skipped out of the office with some precious extra time to spend with my daughter.
Last week also happened to be the first Red Tape Reduction Day in the province. When Minister Coralee Oaks put forward the legislation to create the day last fall, she committed to use it to reduce red tape irritants wherever they might arise, including government service. Not everyone applauded. Some cynics threw tomatoes suggesting that a dedicated day was a waste of time.
Undeterred, the minister proceeded to consult with British Columbians who seemed, based on the hundreds of ideas suggested in a matter of a few weeks, to relish the opportunity to provide constructive ideas about to make dealing with government more positive. Just the act of asking people for their ideas was enough to solicit many comments such as "thank you for listening," "I just want to say that I think this was a very good idea," and "it was excellent that the B.C. government gave us an opportunity for input."
To celebrate the day, the minister announced dozens of specific actions to improve people's lives. For example, the government is replacing the need to have sworn statements with simple signed statements in a number of cases, such as when a parent wants to enrol their child in a francophone school. In her announcement, she included a number of people that had made suggestions to the commission.
Karen Philp, executive director of the B.C. and Yukon Branch of the Kidney Foundation of Canada, talked about how making it simpler for people to register as organ donors has dramatically increased the number of people who have registered. She pointed out that, "This not only helps cut red tape, it raises awareness about the organ donor registry and saves lives."
Mike Croy, vice-president of Teamsters, complimented the government on its initiative to help military personnel transition to civilian jobs by transferring truck driving credentials without further need for testing. This helps businesses looking for people with those credentials, too.
Iain Hooey, co-founder of the Victoria Whisky Festival, talked about the frustration of filling out 18 pieces of paper and waiting two months to get permits for his event. He can now fill out one form online and the wait is just two days. He described the "sense of calm" that came over him with this new process, which solicited laughs from most of the audience, who have had "the sense of wanting to swear" when dealing with a frustrating government process.
The minister also announced she is acting on a small-business owner's suggestion to have a permanent suggestion button for red tape reduction ideas. The button is now live on the BC government's home page at www.gov.bc.ca. Her work, she acknowledges, is just beginning. There are more suggestions to review, ideas that are being considered for future announcements, and more consultation with small business planned.
Renewing my driver's licence and listening to Karen, Mike and Iain last week, I was reminded that the quality of the interaction between a government and its citizens has a big impact on people in thousands of small ways. I wish Minister Oakes many happy Red Tape Reduction Days to come.
Laura Jones is executive vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. Follow her on Twitter @CFIBideas.
This story was originally published in the The Vancouver Sun