Now is the time to rid Edmonton businesses of tax eating red tape
So far they’ve talked a good game at City Hall, however the need to “walk the walk” is upon us to get rid of the red tape that is plaguing Edmonton’s businesses. Especially those job creating start-ups that are yet to get going.
The recently released report from Laura Jones, The Drag on Productivity from Excessive Regulation said even before the pandemic Canadian businesses were losing $10 billion a year because of prohibitive rules that are in place.
Edmonton’s development and building industries face the most red tape since they’re required to obtain the most development and construction permits. It leads to frustration since these projects can’t get going until regulations are satisfied. The longer the delay, the more the cost goes up which creates a drag in job creation.
Last week’s report which was distributed by the Fraser Institute cited 2018 figures which had 32,832 regulation restrictions in Alberta, many of which are tied to Edmonton.
Cutting red tape has worked elsewhere
Jones’ report pointed to work in British Columbia where “government went on a regulatory diet,” in 2001. In the aftermath economic growth was faster there than anywhere else in Canada.
What we saw in Old Strathcona and elsewhere this past summer demonstrates how cutting red tape can benefit our city. Brent Francis, the director of Advocacy and Outreach for the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce said, “I can tell you the single most cited example of red tape that has improved recently relates to patio permits - before the pandemic, it could take months to go through the permitting process for opening a patio outside your restaurant. Once the pandemic hit, the City changed the process to simply signing an attestation that the business would follow the rules, then the City would follow-up through enforcement. This is something we've called on the City to make permanent, as it reduces the cost burden on business by making a lean permitting process on the front end.”
A target has been set, now it’s time to act
It’s been more than a year and a half since Premier Jason Kenney announced the province’s red tape reduction initiative. The city responded by submitting in November of 2019 four pages’ worth of things the city wished it didn’t have to do to satisfy the province. As I reported then, it covered 20 categories.
However since then little has been said about progress. I’m aware of one pilot project involving an industrial developer who saw timelines reduced. Instead of 6 months, it was 45 days. That should be the norm, not the exception.
One way to get there is to have city staff work with its customers to have AI suppliers like Google DeepMind integrate the permit system so technology can be incorporated and speed up the process.
In my way of thinking, city council should look to red tape reduction in its own hallways to make job creation the number one priority for Edmonton in 2021, while competing against other municipalities outside of our borders. One way of doing that is reducing the amount of time for approvals. Commercial development is coming to Heritage Valley and Richford in Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi. City council will review initial submissions in late January. That could provide a good test case.