Every small business owner in this country has a red tape story. Some are shocking
Business licences for lemonade stands, permits to transport tadpoles to show-and-tell and inspectors demanding safety documentation for Windex. Individual examples of red tape can sound trivial or even funny but the cumulative consequences are far from benign.
Hundreds of thousands of hours and billions of dollars are wasted on red tape every year. Studies confirm that all this waste translates into lower incomes, less economic growth, more poverty and higher levels of income inequality. That’s why 10 years ago the Canadian Federation of Independent Business launched its first annual Red Tape Awareness Week.
For some, the impact is very personal. My mother was a small-business owner and I remember the long nights she would spend filling out government forms at the kitchen table. Some were necessary; many cut into our story time and raised her blood pressure for no benefit. This is common. Business owners all across the country report missing out on valuable time with family and friends due to red tape. In fact, nearly half of business owners (48 per cent) would caution their children against starting a business given the high economic and emotional burden of regulation.
Just about every business owner I’ve ever spoken to has a red-tape story. Some are run of the mill — not being able to navigate government websites easily, getting different answers to the same question from the Canada Revenue Agency, and filling out mandatory surveys from Statistics Canada that are excessively long and complicated. The more troubling stories threaten the viability of businesses with little recourse. They often involve overzealous inspectors applying rules capriciously or governments publishing contradictory information.