The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says Newfoundland and Labrador is falling behind other provinces in reducing red tape.
The federation released its annual Red Tape Report Card on Tuesday, dropping the province from a B last year to a C-plus this year. Vaughn Hammond, the Newfoundland and Labrador director of provincial affairs for the federation, said the lower grade is more about what the provincial government hasn’t done in the past year than what it has.
“Fundamentally it’s about what they’ve done in terms of accountability, what the regulatory burden is for small businesses,” said Hammond. “What we’ve noted is that Newfoundland and Labrador, especially in recent years, hasn’t really made that much progress in terms of what’s necessary to ensure that whatever progress or momentum has been gained through efforts from 2005 to 2010, we (have) kept that.”
The government needs better measurement and public reporting of its red tape, and to enshrine that accountability in legislation, said Hammond, as Saskatchewan and British Columbia have done.
The measurement can include several bureaucratic figures, said Hammond. “It could be qualitative or quantitative,” he said. “It could be the number of regulations that are in place. It could be the amount of time that it takes for someone to get an answer from government. It could be anything that’s related to the number of inspections that a business has to go through, any of those kinds of things.”
Service NL Minister Dan Crummell defended the government’s record on reducing red tape. He said it has been a priority for the government for nearly a decade.
“We’re very confident we’re taking the right steps,” he said, adding that the federation’s call for new legislation on red tape reduction would add to the bureaucracy instead of reducing it. “We’re all for reducing regulation and legislating regulatory reform, but we think we’d be adding to our regulations, not reducing. We’re not really there with regards to that.”
Saskatchewan and B.C. are the only provinces that have such legislation, said Crummell, adding the provincial government has had zero net growth in regulation since 2006, and has removed about 80,000 regulatory requirements.
“We’ve been achieving exactly what we set out to do,” he said. “So our regulatory reform initiative has had tangible improvements for business and citizens, and we stand by that.”
The government has also recently put in an accountability framework for regulatory reform, said Crummell. “That ensures government departments not only recognize the importance of regulatory reform, but it gives them the tools to modernize regulations and to report progress.”