The bureaucratic death by a thousand paper cuts

By MPP Toby Barrett

“Do we need more common sense and fairness in our regulations? You bet we do.” – President Clinton, January 24, 1995

Unnecessary rules and r ed tape kill jobs. It’s that simple.
The original ‘red tape’ – used to tie bundles of legal papers in 17th century England – at least had a purpose. Today’s maze largely delivers little in the way of benefit and much in the way of cost wasting time, energy, and money that could be used in other ways. While regulation helps protect consumers and the environment, it too often imposes rules with no regard for the cost.

Red tape can limit consumer choices, frustrate entrepreneurship, reduce productivity, raise prices, and lower living standards. We’ve seen first-hand how over-regulation literally strangles opportunity for economic growth among provinces, municipalities and private sector business.

Given the need to untether business and government buried in paperwork , it is incumbent on all to take a serious look in the mirror and make a concerted effort to deal with red tape .

If you want people to do something, it’s generally wise to make it easy for them. Make good regulations better, easier to understand and easier to observe.

In Ottawa, the Prime Minister’s recent announcement of a new commission to reduce the paper burden – where no federal department will be spared– is a good first step. In Ontario, we’ r e given empty words and feel-good legislation that fails to live up to its title.

While the McGuinty Government announced its “Open for Business Act” to reduce regulation, it didn’t take long for Economic Development and Trade Minister Pupatello to unveil the truth, stating, “this isn’t a ‘cutting red tape’ initiative.” She wasn’t kidding. Wih Ontario awash in over 500,000 regulations, according to the Toronto Star, the economic development bill was slated to slash a mere 50 from the environment ministry. By comparison, the previous PC government stru ck down through the Red Tape C ommission over 2,100 unnecessary regulations.

Although the cost of regulation is indirect and largely invisible, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), has been adding up the bill. Canadian businesses currently shell out $30-billion annually in compliance costs – costs that have led CFIB members to identify reduction of red tape as their second highest priority, topped narrowly by the tax burden.

T he CFIB report s that the vast majority of their membership – 67 per cent – feel government doesn’t take red tape seriously enough. It’s no wonder a quarter of Canadian entrepreneurs would have reconsidered going into business i n the first place had they know about the ti me and money required to comply.

From unnecessary monthly forms, to required filing of duplicate information , to obsolete regulation, the cumulative effect is proving economically devastating. As CFIB Western Canada Vice President Laura Jones noted, “Red tape is like death by a thousand paper cuts, leaving far too many entrepreneurs feeling stressed out and frustrated.”

While Ottawa has jumped on board to lighten burden, it’s time for this province to go back to the goals of the Red Tape Commission of the mid-nineties – untie the hands of entrepreneurs, and reinvigorate a stagnant Ontario economy.