By Nathan Stevens
January 27, 2012
The burden of over-regulation is wearing thin for many farmers in Ontario. Red tape is being sighted as a key constraint for small and medium businesses across Canada. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has made this issue one of their key issues, and published its annual report card on red tape in Canada earlier this month.
Perhaps surprisingly to some farmers, Ontario rated a B- this year, which is a substantial improvement over the C- from the 2011 report card. The CFIB report card measures a variety of factors in determining how well a province is doing. For example, does the government actively measure regulatory burden? Has it implemented an on-going measurement? Has it imposed constraints on regulators? Have they made regular accountability a political priority?
On the upside, the Premier promised to reduce red tape by 25 per cent in 2011 and considerable efforts were made to remove a large number of outdated regulations. Constraints were placed on regulators which require that for every new regulation imposed on business, two must be eliminated. Furthermore, proposed regulations must be posted for public comment, while new ones can only be implemented twice a year.
However, on the downside, there is no legislated requirement to report on regulatory burden annually, nor are their on-going measurements that are being used to measure the burden over time. This means that the relatively good score of B- this year may just be an anomaly, rather than the first step towards scoring an A.
The CFIB report also offers some insight on how to improve dealing with regulatory burden. One of the more interesting ideas is to have a cabinet minister focused on regulatory oversight. CFIB points out that we all take for granted the importance of a Ministry of Finance when it comes to handling the spending of government dollars. The CFIB draws a parallel arguing that a cabinet member focused on regulatory oversight could control the proliferation of regulations.
The CFIB report card is successfully raising awareness of the burden of over-regulation throughout Canada. It is important to remember that regulations have a role in assuring public safety, establishing industry standards and meeting a variety of other worthwhile objectives. However, there is also the need for businesses to be competitive in a global environment. Finding the right balance is the difficult task of all regulators.
Nathan Steven is the Research & Policy Advisor for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and UCB Canada radio stations in Chatham, Belleville, Bancroft, Brockville and Kingston and in Brantford and Woodstock. It is also found on the CFFO website: www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,200 family farmers across Ontario.