In an interesting twist this month, the Canadian Federation of Business, ( CFIB) launched a new campaign to cut red tape in regards to how business deals with government. With the strength of over 107,000 small business owners from coast-to-coast the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is the big voice for small businesses. For over 35 years, it has represented the interests of the small business community to all three levels of government in their fight for tax fairness, reasonable labour laws and reduction of regulatory paper burden.
So what is red tape exactly? According to the CFIB, it’s a combination of things. Sometimes it’s dumb rules that don’t accomplish what they intend to accomplish. Sometimes it’s complicated forms or language, permit delays or getting different interpretations about the rules from government.
How big is the problem? Thee CFIB says that if you ask any business owner, they’ll tell you a red tape story. Some problems are small; some threaten or have closed businesses. Around 60 per cent of business owners say that it affects their productivity, their ability to innovate and to be competitive in global markets. There’s a huge opportunity here for Canada to get serious about this issue, and have a competitive advantage.
Why should the public care? The CFIB estimates that regulation costs Canadian businesses over $30-billion a year. Reducing red tape translates into more job opportunities, higher wages, lower prices, higher tax revenues and less stress for business owners and their families. The CFIB says that first step toward meaningful change is to make sure the public knows about it and understands that this is a huge hidden tax that frustrates entrepreneurship. The general public might encounter red tape occasionally with renovating a home or getting a passport, but business owners encounter red tape day in and day out being in compliance with business regulations with three levels of government. The CFIB also wanted to give business owners a sense of hope that things can change. Many business owners often feel no one is listening to them or that there’s nowhere to tell their stories and get action.
So who in Canada is the biggest red tape offender? Many say Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), who is responsible for monitoring the collection of taxes. The CRA has made every business a tax collector (unpaid it should be noted) as small business is responsible for collecting and remitting the taxes at both the employee and customer level. In some cases this becomes a Red Tape nightmare. CRA also represents the federal government . But provincial and municipal governments can make life miserable and threaten business, too.
The CFIB differentiates red tape from necessary rules and regulations. Business owners say that red tape could easily be reduced by 25 per cent without harming any of the legitimate health and safety objectives of regulations. That’s the equivalent of a $7.5-billion annual stimulus package for business.
Here are some great Red Tape examples. Duplication is a huge problem for businesses. Often the level of government isn’t aware of the duplication, and sometimes the duplication has conflicting rules. That type of issue can be extremely frustrating.
So what can governments do?The CFIB says it’s pretty simple. They want government to set targets for reducing red tape. They want them to measure and be publicly accountable for those targets. Once those targets have been met, they want them to keep measuring and being publicly accountable and to set a ‘zero increase' target to control red tape going into the future.
The CFIB also wants the CRA to introduce a taxpayer fairness code, to use more tax-friendly language and to give taxpayers the right to get information in writing. They want this for all large and small companies or individuals should be able to call and ask for advice, be able to get that in writing, and then have that written advice respected even if it’s wrong.
Another factor is accessibility. Many CFIB members get busy signals, are put on hold or get disconnected. For example, once the CFIB called the CRA on a member’s behalf, and was disconnected after 17 minutes on hold, then when they called back, got a different answer the second time, asked again where if they could see the issue in writing on the Web site, got put on hold again, this time for 26 minutes, and then were disconnected. The third time they called back, the CFIB rep asked to speak to a manager. The person on the other end of the phone said we couldn’t speak to a manager and wouldn’t give them any identifying information, and said if we left their information, someone would call them back tomorrow. A perfect example of more Red Tape.
What can business do? Business should also contact their Member of Parliament, their local municipal politicians or provincial counterparts and tell them you need more help in cutting out Red Tape.
If this was business and we gave our customers the same type of Red Tape problems you know they would shop somewhere else. Unfortunately governments at all levels have monopolies and they are not customer centric. In that case they can give us all the Red Tape we can handle. For most Canadian businesses we want less Red Tape and better environment to make money.
Want to get involved in Red Tape Awareness Week, check out www.cfib.ca
Kensel Tracy is the Marketing Coach with the Corporate Coachworkz Inc. with offices located in Ottawa and Chelsea, Quebec. He is also the President of Business Over Breakfast Clubs of North America. If you have a story of interest, he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org