By Cardston-Taber-Warner MLA Grant Hunter
As part of Small Business Week this month, I wanted to take the time to recognize the hard work and valuable contributions of Alberta’s entrepreneurs. It’s also important to use this week to discuss the challenges that small business owners and potential entrepreneurs are facing. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business just reported that Alberta cities no longer dominate the annual rankings of Canada’s best places to start and grow a business. Right now, many Albertan entrepreneurs feel like their governments are working against them, whether it’s through the introduction of a carbon tax, higher personal and business taxes, a 50 per cent increase to the minimum wage, or a growing mountain of red tape.
Red tape can be defined as “excessive bureaucracy, rules and formalities,” and it is often a significant impediment to people starting or running a business. Large companies hire staff to deal with a myriad of regulations, whether it be accountants, lawyers or administrators, but small business owners often have to wear all these hats at once while also doing whatever it is they went into business to do.
I hope to have the opportunity to present a private member’s bill to the legislative assembly that calls for a “one-for-one rule” when making government regulations. If a regulation is introduced that imposes a new burden on a business, within a fixed period of time one or more regulations must be amended or repealed to offset the cost of the new burden.
The federal Conservative government made this rule for its departments and agencies back in 2012 and then codified the rule into law in 2015. The NDP and the Liberals supported the principle behind the legislation, and my hope is that Alberta’s NDP would recognize the need for red tape reduction, as well.
To be clear, this is not about axing regulations in place to protect the health and safety of Albertans. This is about making it simpler and more efficient for small business owners to comply with regulations and complete the required paperwork. Business owners have to be careful to comply with all regulations at all levels of government, as well as follow the requirements of any professional or industry associations of which they are a part.
I do commend the former provincial government for its initiative providing small businesses with a website designed to be a “one-stop shop” for information (smallbusiness.alberta.ca). But this website also serves to highlight how many different regulations small business owners need to be cognizant of. One page lists links to 12 provincial acts that are “frequently searched by small businesses” then goes on to say, “However, there are numerous Acts, Regulations and bylaws that govern starting and operating a small business in Alberta.”
Other jurisdictions have formal plans in place to be mindful of the regulatory burdens placed on its citizens, and we should have something in Alberta too, especially as the government is rolling out new regulations that will affect small businesses.
Let’s take the next step. After all, it’s not just the owners of small businesses that would benefit – when local businesses thrive, all Alberta consumers are better off as well.
Grant Hunter is the Wildrose Shadow Jobs Minister and MLA for Cardston-Taber-Warner.