The City of Corner Brook says it’s open for business, but Vaughn Hammond says some businesspeople are not getting the service they need.
“There’s certain practices that they need to implement, particularly on the side of red tape and regulatory reform, that they need to consider to make it seem more open,” said Hammond, senior policy analyst with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business in St. John’s.
Hammond said a city can say it’s open for business, but then someone actually goes through the system and finds they are not getting the help they want. Then, he said, it becomes an issue.
The federation represents small- to medium-sized businesses and has 1,900 members in the province. Hammond said those members are talking about the difficulties of navigating the system in Corner Brook.
“What we’ve been hearing from our members is that when they go to expand, there’s issues in terms of permits and licences, the application process and the kind of paperwork that’s involved.”
He also said there’s a customer service component to it. While the city says there is an open environment, Hammond said when people go to city hall to get help, they don’t find it.
“That open environment doesn’t necessarily exist.”
He said it’s concerning to hear members say that it’s hard to do business in the city because a government should create a climate within which to ensure business can begin, thrive and grow.
Three things the city can do
But Hammond said the city can turn things around.
“First, they can identify a benchmark as to what’s actually going on right now. And then once they have that benchmark established, then set some targets, ideally to reduce the amount of regulation that’s there.”
He said the city also needs to publicly report on those targets.
“As well, they can adopt a zero-net-growth policy,” added Hammond.
What this means is that for every application or regulation adopted an application or regulation is eliminated.
“So then there won’t be growth in regulations,” said Hammond, adding that would, hopefully, help to make things clearer.
The third thing deals with transparency and accountability, and Hammond said there needs to be political leadership on this. Ideally, he said, that would come from the mayor, but could also be a committee chairperson.
“But there needs to be somebody that is there talking about what it is that the City of Corner Brook is doing, will do and can do in order to address red tape reduction.”
When asked why businesses might say it is easier to deal with other communities, Hammond said it could be because the regulations are not the same or that it’s just easier to navigate the system.
“It may be just the customer service involved,” he added.
The Western Star