Small business regulation needs work, report
Government pledges regulatory improvements
By: By Megan Sarrazin
| Posted: Saturday, Sep 08, 2012 06:00 am
Small business owners in the province are concerned about Alberta’s regulatory system, according to a recent government report.
The Red Tape Reduction Task Force report noted concerns from small businesses regarding access to regulatory information, culture and capacity in government, enforcement of regulation and understanding regulations and requirements.
Stephen Khan, St. Albert MLA and minister of enterprise and advanced education, said some findings were “illuminating” while others were expected.
“The most compelling thing that I think came out of the document is an acknowledgement that government … hasn’t always been perceived as being as helpful as we could or should be for small business,” he said.
Premier Alison Redford established the task force in December 2011 to receive input from business leaders and associations on ways to improve the regulatory environment.
This input was received through in-person dialogue sessions, one of which was held in Edmonton with the other in Calgary. An online survey received 507 responses from December 2011 to March 2012.
The task force used the feedback to craft four recommendations for policy makers. These recommendations are:
• create a small business plan that reflects the needs of small businesses,
• strengthen the government’s regulation process,
• work with other organizations, and
• foster a better culture towards business.
The report didn’t indicate how government would achieve these recommendations and Khan said it will require collaboration from various ministries, which could take some time.
“It’s not something simple or small,” he said. “We’re hoping acknowledging the fact that we may not have been as friendly and supportive of business has some resonance within our halls and we can effect some positive change with those types of attitudes right away.”
His said his ministry is tasked with creating a small business strategy to ensure that government is helping small business and said he intends to begin the process shortly.
“We just want to ensure that, if anything, that government’s not getting in the way or being preventative of small businesses being successful,” he said.
Lynda Moffat, president and CEO of the St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce, said the task force was a step in the right direction.
“I’m glad that they’re reviewing it,” she said. “I think that (government hears) all the time, not necessarily just from business people but from everyone using government services, that there has been a lot of bureaucracy involved.”
The report showed nearly 78 per cent of respondents were not aware of government services that assist businesses in accessing information.
Moffat said many local businesses have not sought out these resources because they, too, are not aware of them. She said, however, that local businesses may not need these resources.
“St. Albert is very entrepreneurial and I think that most small businesses like to operate and be self-sustaining,” she said. “I think that attitude and the spirit of being an entrepreneur, because of that, they don’t go seeking out the government programs.”
The report was released Tuesday months after the expected completion date. The delay was largely a result of the election and shuffling of government, Khan said.
Five current and past Progressive Conservative members made up the task force, but none were available to comment.