Alberta introduces bill to reduce regulations hampering, business, economy

EDMONTON — Alberta’s United Conservative government has introduced legislation to slash what it calls unnecessary regulations hindering economic growth and business development.

Premier Jason Kenney symbolically used scissors to cut a horizontal line of red tape Wednesday at a factory south of Edmonton to highlight Bill 4, the Red Tape Reduction Act.

Kenney said over-regulation is killing job growth, particularly on those who have the fewest resources to deal with it.

“Small businesses feel this burden heavier than anyone else,” he said.

“The mom-and-pop shops and small businesses, well they’re the folks who actually have to fill out all of the forms, and contend with everyone from the revenue agency to municipal zoning to provincial regulatory bodies.

“These are reasons why we need to go from regulatory paralysis to job-creating action.”

Kenney campaigned on reducing regulations by one-third over four years, and has appointed Grant Hunter as the associate minister in charge of the project.

Kenney says the bill, while focusing on business, is part of a broader initiative to reduce duplication and unnecessary rules across government, in the non-profit sector, and for municipalities.

Hunter is now surveying the landscape of regulations and is to report back in the new year on the best plan to reduce them.

The province says a preliminary analysis shows Alberta has an estimated 473 Acts and 1,117 regulations, about half of which directly or indirectly apply to private sector businesses.

Alberta will follow a similar reduction plan launched almost two decades ago in British Columbia.

B.C. has been keeping score by tallying the number of regulatory requirements it has eliminated. A regulation can have one regulatory requirement or multiple requirements.

Starting in 2001, B.C. reduced more than 330,000 regulatory requirements by 40 per cent over three years, and since then it’s down to about 50 per cent of that original figure.

B.C. defines a necessary regulation as something where the cost and time involved roughly matches the benefit achieved while at the same time not harming public safety, health or the environment.

Alberta’s Bill 4 does not contain a definition of what is a necessary versus unnecessary regulation, but the preamble does stress that any changes must respect public health, safety and the environment.

Kenney said he could be open to an amendment with a more specific definition.

Opposition NDP critic Chris Nielsen said a clear definition is critical to ensure that the public welfare is not sacrificed while growing the economy.

“It (the bill) doesn’t even define what red tape is,” said Nielsen.

“There are important regulations in this province and some of them must be protected from this UCP government.”

Kenney noted that his government has already begun clearing the way on red tape.

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