Getting Albertans back to work following the COVID-19 lockdown must be done safely and quickly – and must be done the right way. We are likely building our way out of an unprecedented recession that could hurt Albertans, not just in the years to come but for generations.
Because of this and the economic damage we’ve seen around the globe, reopening Alberta can’t just be about getting back to normal. We must make Alberta better and more competitive than ever before. One way this can be done is by simply eliminating red tape.
One of the key characteristics to getting major and minor economic projects going is to minimize the roadblocks. That isn’t to say some regulation isn’t important. Regulation is a vital role for government to play in the economy, but the depth and breadth of our regulations have become economy-preventing as opposed to economy-enhancing. We need to chart a path that will eliminate red tape and make it easier for our businesses to operate.
This has been done before. In 2001, British Columbia’s Finance Minister Kevin Falcon undertook regulatory reform and helped to put policies in place to make good on the election promise to reduce the regulatory burden by one third. Members of the business community widely credited the red tape reduction with playing a critical role in the province’s increasing economic performance.
When the BC government made up a list, they found 2,200 “regulations.” When they shifted to the words “regulatory requirements,” they found a whopping 382,139 that were required in order to access services, carry out business or pursue legislated privileges. They realized there was a problem and they worked to fix it.
It’s time we did the same.
We must get people to work, and we have to shorten the time to move to action. When Canada needed masks and ventilators during the pandemic, what typically took years to get through Health Canada suddenly took weeks. Alberta even led the way by sending ventilators and personal protection equipment to Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia. Where there is a will there is a way.
So many existing regulations are over-reaching and are built on the premise that most businesses can’t be trusted, and we will assume they won’t perform to standards. It is time for the Alberta Government to shift its thinking to one of ‘trust and evaluate.’ Allow business to move to action-based plans, knowing the regulations and following them. Evaluate them for compliance and make the price of non-compliance penalizing.
Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) created a program call PIC – Partners in Compliance. If you have complied at a top level and for a specific time frame, you are granted PIC status. This earns you the right to reduced checks, as you have demonstrated your compliance. Think NEXUS card, but for businesses. Ideas like this limit regulation for businesses small or large, and they help make our companies more competitive with those around the world.
Deregulation in every department of the Alberta Government by a third would be a welcome message to private industries in Alberta. It has been done in British Columbia, and it can be done here.
This will not be easy, but it’s worth repeating: where there is a will there is a way.