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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.


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    Current: Business Owners’ Choice Paperweight Award
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    Your Red Tape Story
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Which regulation is the worst of the worst? You decide! Have your say in our Business Owners' Choice Award—and come back this Friday to find out who “won.”

Red Tape candidates

Paperweights through the years


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 and other government websites. If you CAN find the right info, it’s next to impossible to understand. 


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 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.


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.  


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.


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.