Halifax ‘Patio Police’ Win Red Tape Crown for Burdening Small Business

Halifax ‘Patio Police’ Win Red Tape Crown for Burdening Small Business


redtape2015_EN.l244Federal border agency, Ontario recycling authority share CFIB Paperweight Award 

Toronto, January 20, 2016 – On the third day of Red Tape Awareness Week™, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) announced the winners of its annual Paperweight Award, citing the worst examples of government agencies and departments at all levels that are holding back small businesses with misguided rules, hard-to-follow processes and bad customer service. 

“This year’s Paperweight winners represent ‘specific irritants’ that are costing small businesses time and money,” said Satinder Chera, vice-president at CFIB. “Whether it’s governments going back on their word, or forcing business owners to fill out online forms they don’t need to, or temporarily taking away a service without saying when it will be restored, these leading 2016 examples of red tape are ones that should be the easiest for government to fix.” 

Municipal Winner: Here come the Halifax ‘patio police’

In Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), rules about restaurant patios, and the way those rules are enforced, are getting out of hand. New patio regulations are less clear than in the past, and responsibility for inspection and approval is now split over several different city departments, leading to unnecessary costs for business owners. One popular Argyle Street restaurant that had bolted their patio railing to the sidewalk for 20 years with city approval, was recently told to use cinder blocks to support the railing instead. Another restaurant on the same street got its patio designs approved by the city, only to be told after it was built that the railing was a few inches too close to the sidewalk. Both faced fines over a thousand dollars, and spent close to that amount to comply with the new rules. 

Provincial Winner: Ontario recycling authority wasting everyone’s time

Manufacturers and importers are required to report on product packaging and recycling of printed paper to Stewardship Ontario through a long, poorly-designed online form. Small businesses in the industry that are not required to report have no way of knowing for sure what their obligations are until they start completing the online form.  After filling several parts of the form, the process abruptly stops without a clear explanation. When users call Stewardship Ontario for clarification they are told their business is not required to report. They then have to find the poorly marked checkbox on the form which indicates that they are exempt. 

Federal Winner: Website not found – Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) drops small biz site

The CBSA website’s small business section was a key source for small business owners looking for information on trading with the United States. With no warning, the CBSA dropped the section from their website, including the specific call centre number they had for SMEs. The website no longer has any SME-specific information. The CBSA says the removal is temporary, while they move to the consolidated Canada.gc.ca website, but no timeline has been given, leaving business owners without access to government trade-related information tailored to small importers. 

The Finalists for the Paperweight Award:

Manitoba Ministry of Finance

Manitoba’s “associated companies” rule forces companies with the same owner(s) to combine their payrolls to determine whether they need to pay additional tax. The government does not provide business owners who sell a company mid-year (and no longer apply under the rule) an avenue to report the change until the following tax season, leaving them stuck with the higher tax rates, for up to a full year.

Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

Contractors were forced to wait eight months for a building permit to construct a wharf in Lunenburg County thanks to confusion between the regional DNR office in Lunenburg and the head office in Halifax. The wait-time far exceeded the 45-day turnaround advertised on the department’s website and forced the company to lay off its employees.

Revenu Québec

Construction companies and employment agencies must obtain Revenu Québec certification to show clients they have paid their taxes. The client then has to take that same certification back to Revenu Québec – the very same agency that issued the certification in the first place – and have them verify that the certification is legitimate.

Saskatchewan Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety

If an employee wants to observe a public holiday on a different day, the employer needs to apply for a special permit from the Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety. In other provinces, the employee and manager can simply agree to swap days.

Port Metro Vancouver (Fraser Valley Port Authority)

The port authority implemented new rules, which essentially exclude businesses with fewer than five trucks from accessing the port. Along with enormous fee increases, these changes have disqualified 600 trucks from working at the port. All of which was done without proper consultation.

Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Service Canada

Lack of communication between these federal departments forced a Temporary Foreign Worker in Nova Scotia out of her job with a small business, and nearly resulted in her deportation.

Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)

In BC, a temporary foreign worker (TFW) looking to enter the trucking sector needs a work permit to get a driver’s licence. But, to get a work permit from the CBSA, the TFW requires – you guessed it – a driver’s license from the ICBC.

Government red tape is a hidden tax that affects Canada’s small businesses much more than larger firms. The annual cost of all regulations on businesses in Canada is pegged at $37 billion per year, with one-third of that ($11 billion) considered red tape.


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