Government regulations can be the bane of small businesses. But a greater concern for many is the difficulty accessing information about those regulations.
At least that’s what Dave Quest has concluded, midway through a series of meetings that he’s conducting across Alberta. The MLA for Strathcona-Sherwood Park met with members of Red Deer’s business community on Friday, after participating in earlier gatherings at Lloydminster, Edmonton and Calgary. Similar meetings are also planned for Medicine Hat, Lethbridge, Grand Prairie and Fort McMurray.
“There isn’t actually as much on the regulatory side as I had anticipated,” said Quest of the feedback he’s received to date. “We’re hearing a little bit about that, but what we’re really hearing is on the communication.”
Business owners often face multiple websites and no obvious contact person when seeking information about the rules and requirements governing their operations, he said.
“Those are the things we’re hearing that we have to get better at: fewer points of contact — I would say, ideally, probably a single point of contact — and preferably a live body.”
Quest’s meetings with business operators are part of an Alberta Enterprise and Advanced Education initiative to develop a small business strategy. This is important, he said, because small businesses account for 95 per cent of Alberta’s businesses and 27 per cent of the province’s GDP.
“It really is critical to the province’s economy that these people succeed.”
As the former dealer principle of Kallal Pontiac in Tofield and shareholder of Beaverhill GMC in Tofield and Petersen Pontiac in Sherwood Park, Quest said he understands the challenges that business owners face. He described his own frustrations in dealing with GST requirements and having to have an out-of-province inspection and an out-of-country inspection performed on the same vehicle.
The Red Deer meeting attracted between 25 and 30 people, said Quest, with these including officials from the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce and businesses ranging from a funeral home to a residential construction company. Participants were vocal but positive, he said.
“I sense a real enthusiasm in the small business community in Red Deer.”
These “engagement sessions” will conclude on Dec. 6, with feedback also coming from an online survey that can be accessed at shape.alberta.ca (click on Take the Survey). Ultimately, findings will be incorporated into a provincial small business strategy, which is expected to be rolled out by spring, said Quest.
“Because this sector is growing so quickly, and growing faster in this province than any other province in Canada, we have to make sure that the environment is out there for them to succeed; that we provide them with what they need; that we keep the regulation to a minimum and essentially get out of their way.”