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Paperweight Awards: Exposing Canada’s worst regulations

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Weekly steak dinners. A new business license—just for changing addresses. A carbon tax rebate costing $80,000.

These are just some of the regulatory blunders small business owners faced over the past year. Join us as we name-and-shame these and many more bureaucratic nightmares with the 2020 Paperweight Awards.

In this edition, we asked business owners like you to vote for which Paperweight Award was the worst of the worst. It is our misfortune to announce that the "winner" of this year's Business Owners' Choice Paperweight Award is....

 

The Government of British Columbia for Fortune Teller Finances!

 

The B.C. government's new Employer Health Tax (EHT) is forcing business owners to pay quarterly installments based on estimates of their payroll. 

The calculation is unlike B.C.'s other provincial payroll tax--worker's compensation--which is charged on actual payroll rather than guesswork. 

Local economic conditions, consumer demand and the labour market are some of the unpredictable factors completely beyond a business owner's control that can influence payroll costs. Miscalculation comes with a price--if a business owner is found to have underestimated their annual payroll, they must pay the difference plus interest. You'll need a crystal ball to pay this tax!

 

The power of a Paperweight Award

 

When we stand together against unfair rules and regulations, we can have a major impact on government policies--like in Quebec, where a 2019 Paperweight Award helped this business owner wake up from his red tape nightmare. 

Paperweights through the years

2019

Guidelines on what condiments are acceptable for workers. Confusing, contradictory laws on cannabis labels. License applications straight out of the 1970s. These are just some of the regulatory nightmares that won our 2019 Paperweight Awards

The Business Owners’ Choice of the worst red tape was the federal government’s web of confusion. Business owners have told us over and over again that it’s painfully hard to find information on Canada.ca and other government websites. If you CAN find the right info, it’s next to impossible to understand. 

2018

In 2018, business owners were invited to have their say on the worst of the worst. The Business Owners’ Choice, winning by several hundred votes, was Finance Minister Bill Morneau, for adding more complexity and uncertainty to the tax code by imposing a subjective ‘reasonableness test’ on business owners who share income with family members. Other Paperweights "celebrated" Ontario's drastic labour overhaul, a sidewalk to nowhere in B.C., and Statistics Canada's compulsory, time-consuming surveys. 

2017

2017 was another banner year for inane regulations. In addition to lemonade stand police and sidewalks to nowhere, we also saw Nova Scotia employers being required to do convoluted math to pay employees for partial shifts, Alberta agri-businesses forced to comply with employment standards that don’t recognize the realities of working on a farm, and P.E.I. residents being hit with extra taxes when selling property if the buyer is someone from another province. 

Read more and meet the rest of the winners.

2016

Halifax wins for its new patio regulations, which cost local bars and restaurants north of $1,000 to comply with. It shared the award with the Canadian Border Services Agency, for dropping its digital small business section; and the Ontario Recycling Authority, for a complicated digital form for reporting on packaging and recycling paper. 

Runners-up included Revenu Québec for issuing a permit that construction companies had to give to clients… who then send it back to Revenu Québec. Also nominated were the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, the Canadian Border Services Agency (twice!), Port Metro Vancouver, the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Labour Relations.  

2015

The top honour went to Plateau-Mont-Royal, for requiring businesses to replace any plastic chairs used on their patios—a costly upgrade. The Ontario Ministry of Labour shared the award for mandating that employment standards information be printed on legal-size paper.

The also-rans: Manitoba Finance Minister Greg Dewar, for costing some businesses $30,000 because of a lack of guidance; the mayor of Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie, for banning new drive-thrus; and the mayor of Sherbrooke, Que., for banning certain types of marketing banners.

2014

The Temporary Foreign Worker Program, for becoming even more time-consuming and confusing, wins the Paperweight Award. Sharing the distinction: Multi-Material British Columbia, which required business to weigh, measure and report paper and packaging waste.

Dishonorable mentions went to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Labour Relations, for making it mandatory to get a permit to swap statutory holidays for other days off work; the Ontario Ministry of Labour, for mandating that directors, owners and independent contractors in construction buy workers’ compensation coverage; and the Quebec Ministry of Labour for continuing to outlaw cutting hair on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday in the Outaouais region.

About Red Tape Awareness Week: Each year, we dedicate one week in January to raise public awareness about how excessive regulations and red tape affect you, and challenge politicians and bureaucrats across the country to take action.