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Manitoba poised to become a leader on reducing red tape

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What comes to mind when you hear someone talk about government rules and paperwork? If you ask an entrepreneur, you’ll often get an earful about red tape headaches and frustrations in dealing with all levels of government.

We know entrepreneurs deal with piles of red tape associated with PST, GST, employment standards, municipal by-laws, payroll taxes, WCB paperwork – the list goes on and on. In fact, a recent survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) found 68 per cent of Manitoba small business owners said that provincial red tape limits their ability to create jobs.

CFIB estimates the annual cost of all regulations on businesses is pegged at $37 billion per year, with one-third of that ($11 billion) considered unnecessary red tape. In Manitoba, all federal, provincial and municipal regulations cost businesses $1.2 billion per year, $360 million of which is considered red tape.

Let’s be clear – small businesses have no issue with the legitimate rules. Red tape is not to be confused with necessary regulation. A certain amount of regulation is important to protect human health and the environment.

But red tape is something else; it is inconsistent information, confusing forms, bad customer service or getting the run around. Entrepreneurs lose hours on the phone with government agencies. They have to comply with confusing and arbitrary rules. They often deal with unhelpful and even aggressive customer service agents.

That’s why 8 years ago, CFIB launched Red Tape Awareness Week (RTAW), which looks at which governments are making progress and which ones are lagging when it comes to reducing unnecessary rules and red tape on entrepreneurs.

To kick off its annual Red Tape Awareness Week in 2017, CFIB challenged provincial governments across the country to follow the example set federally and adopt a ‘one-for-one law’ – getting rid of one government rule for every new one that comes into force.

Manitoba stepped up quickly to become the first (and only) province to accept CFIB’s challenge by committing to legislate a ‘one-for-one law’. The province even went a step further by promising to remove two rules for every new one for the next four years. This will certainly put Manitoba way ahead of the pack in showing leadership on regulatory reform.

It is clear Manitoba is well on its way to becoming a leader on reducing red tape by committing to legislate a one-for-one-law, launching the Red Tape Reduction Task Force and joining the New West Partnership Trade Agreement. CFIB welcomed the number of positive announcements the Manitoba government recently made during Red Tape Awareness Week, such as creating a publicly-available key performance indicator (KPI) on regulatory requirements, removing unnecessary regulatory requirements on the construction of farm buildings, addressing outdated standards in regulations, and allowing heavier weight allowances for Manitoba truckers.

As well, the Manitoba government launched online red tape reduction consultations, asking Manitobans to share ideas for reducing red tape and unnecessary regulations. The government wants businesses, not-for-profit groups, municipalities and citizens from across the province to identify red tape irritants, and unnecessary rules, policies and forms that create a burden when conducting business or delivering services. If you’ve got a red tape headache, now is the time to come forward, whether problems with PST rules, WCB, or applying for a particular program.

The government is listening, so now is the time to make your voice heard. Take a few minutes to share your red tape headaches – this may be the only way for the provincial government to potentially fix your red tape problem. Online submissions can be made at www.gov.mb.ca./reduceredtape/ until February 20, 2017.

Fortunately, many provinces are now taking steps to cut unnecessary red tape and clear the clutter, but Manitoba remains the first to commit to making a one-in-one-out regulatory cap the law. It’s not enough to clean the closet once; the real challenge is to keep it clean, which is what Manitoba has promised to do.

Jonathan Alward is the Manitoba director of provincial affairs with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). He can be reached at [email protected] or you can follow him on Twitter @CFIBMB.

CFIB is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 109,000 members (4,800 members in Manitoba) across every sector and region.

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